Run it back: Wainwright to return to Cardinals for 2023

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright reacts after Los Angeles Dodgers' Trea...
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright reacts after Los Angeles Dodgers' Trea Turner grounds out in to a double play during the third inning of a National League Wild Card playoff baseball game Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)(Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP)
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 11:07 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - This past season of Cardinals baseball was billed as a farewell tour for two of the franchise’s most iconic players as Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols wrapped up their MLB careers in St. Louis.

Throughout the festivities, it was always specified that a third long-time Cardinal, Adam Wainwright, was not exactly part of this retirement tour. And for good reason; Wainwright had never uttered the r-word. Whether to retire or continue pitching beyond the 2022 campaign wasn’t a decision he and his family would make until the end of the year.

Wainwright has now determined the answer to that question. And it involves Cardinals fans seeing a lot more of No. 50.

After reports indicated early Wednesday that a reunion between the Cardinals and Wainwright was destined for the upcoming year, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak confirmed the club’s excitement that Wainwright would be returning during his end-of-season press conference Wednesday afternoon. Financial details of the deal are not yet known, but the bottom line for Cardinals fans is clear: Waino is back.

The 41-year-old Wainwright ended this past season with an 11-12 record and a 3.71 ERA. Wainwright was a workhorse on the mound, accomplishing his ninth MLB season with 190+ innings pitched. But the season ended on a sour note for the veteran right-hander, who explained in a Twitter thread after the season that a previously undetected error in his mechanics had caused his typical crispness to evade him down the stretch.

Determined not to let a wonderful career end on those terms, Wainwright seemed destined for another season on the mound in 2023. Wednesday’s news clarifies that his next step in the journey will come in the same place that each step before it has.

The careers of Pujols and Molina are largely unquestioned in terms of their Hall of Fame credibility. Wainwright, however, has a much murkier case upon which to build with another strong season of pitching. Having missed virtually two full years due to injury after bursting onto the scene late in the 2005 season, Wainwright hasn’t logged many of the counting stats that are typically considered prerequisites for a Hall-of-Fame pitching career.

Wainwright secured a significant record in September when he and Yadier Molina became the pitcher-catcher battery with the most starts together in MLB history. More milestones could be in store for Waino in 2023. He’ll enter next season at 195 wins, just five Ws from the impressive 200-win mark. Further in the distance, Wainwright needs 15 wins to chase down Jesse Haines for second place on the all-time Cardinals wins list, behind only the great Bob Gibson.

Re-signing Wainwright will add the veteran to a list of starting pitching candidates that includes Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery, Steven Matz and Dakota Hudson under control for the 2023 season. Jose Quintana, the Cardinals’ Game 1 starter in the Wild Card Series, was on an expiring contract and will be a free agent.