ST. LOUIS • When Adam Wainwright stood at spring training and considered the end of his contract, he said, repeatedly, that his plan was to force the team to want him back. His season took a more scenic route than planned – winding through rehab assignments and recovery, from Springfield, Mo., to Memphis, to a playoff race in September – but the destination was the same.
The team wanted him back.
Conversations that started toward the end of the season reached agreement Thursday as the Cardinals finalized and announced a one-year deal with their veteran ace. The team made the deal official with a tweet. Wainwright, 37, returns to the only major-league team he’s known and to a franchise where his career records rank in the top 10 of most pitching categories.
Only Bob Gibson, for example, has more strikeouts.
Wainwright went 2-4 with a 4.46 ERA in eight starts for the Cardinals this past season. He missed the bulk of the year recovering from elbow soreness that at least once forced him to consider the possibility he would not pitch, competitively, again. He had a breakthrough during his rehab at the start of August, and by September he returned to the Cardinals rotation. He made four starts in September and twice pitched more than six innings. The Cardinals won three of his four starts, including a game against the Dodgers when he pitched six scoreless innings.
In 13 years with the Cardinals, Wainwright has gone 148-85 with a 3.32 ERA in 352 games, 285 of which have been starts. From 2009-2014, Wainwright finished top three in Cy Young Award voting four times.
Financial terms of the one-year deal were not disclosed.
Wainwright has previously said that he knew a return to the Cardinals would not come with the guarantee of a role. He has said that he would welcome a move to the bullpen if that’s where the team saw him best contributing, but his preference has been to remain a starter.