Adam Wainwright planned to cut off negotiations with the Cardinals if the two sides couldn't come to terms on a contract extension by Opening Day, but they have reportedly managed to get something done with five days to spare.
According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Cardinals and Wainwright have reached agreement on a five-year, $97.5 million extension. The 31-year-old right-hander was due to become a free agent after the 2013 season, but the new pact sets him up to stay with St. Louis through his age-36 season in 2018. The Cardinals have yet to confirm the signing, but they are expected to make it official during a press conference on Thursday.
As part of the new deal, Wainwright will have an average annual salary of $19.5 million. While his rumored asking price was often compared to Matt Cain's five-year, $112.5 million extension with the Giants, Wainwright's AAV (average annual value) comes up a little bit short here. However, it's not hard to understand why, as Wainwright is the older pitcher and had Tommy John surgery two years ago. Either way, this will be the largest contract the Cardinals have ever awarded to a pitcher.
Wainwright owns a quality 3.14 ERA since he moved to the starting rotation in 2007. This might come as a surprise, but only CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA (min. 800 IP) during the same timespan. He got better as last season moved along, which isn't unexpected for someone in their first season back from Tommy John surgery. There's every reason to believe that we'll see something closer to vintage Waino for 2013 and beyond.
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Decision Looms on Bradley
When spring training began, Jackie Bradley was an exciting outfield prospect who had never played a game above Double-A. Sure, he was expected to see some playing time in Grapefruit League games, but most assumed he would eventually be sent to the minors with the goal of a possible promotion later this year. Things haven't exactly worked out that way.
Bradley has become one of the biggest stories in this longer-than-usual spring training, hitting .431 (25-for-58) with two home runs, four doubles, one triple, 11 RBI and one stolen base in 25 games. Also impressive, the 22-year-old has struck out just as many times (nine) as he has walked. His strong play (and the heel injury to David Ortiz) has caused the Red Sox to consider carrying him as a left fielder and using Jonny Gomes as their primary designated hitter.
With only a few days left in camp, it's not clear where things stand. However, Red Sox manager John Farrell hinted Wednesday morning that a decision could be made by the end of the day Thursday.
"Still working through it," Farrell told MassLive.com. "We'd probably like to have some sense of who our 25 guys are going to be by the end of the day tomorrow. We just want to be fair to all that are going north that they have a couple of days to prepare themselves."
If the Red Sox hold off on adding Bradley to the roster for just a couple of weeks, they could have him under team control through 2019 as opposed to 2018. The Nationals employed similar timing with the promotion of phenom Bryce Harper last year. That's not to say that Bradley is on Harper's level, but these considerations matter, even for a team with deep pockets like the Red Sox.
There's also the matter of Bradley's inexperience. In addition to the challenge of facing major league pitching, he would be manning a position that he has barely played since high school. By the way, the Green Monster is no walk in the park, even for an experienced left fielder. Still, assuming the Red Sox put him on the Opening Day roster, he would absolutely be worth a flier in deeper mixed fantasy leagues. Just don't go crazy, as the Red Sox could send him back down when Ortiz returns. Of course, if he keeps hitting, all bets are off.
Ramos Looking Good
Ryan Zimmerman grabbed most of the headlines for the Nationals on Wednesday by connecting for three home runs against the Braves, but it was also the best day of the spring for a certain catcher who missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury.
Wilson Ramos, who tore the meniscus and ACL in his right knee last May, clubbed his first and second home runs of the spring. The 24-year-old backstop is now hitting .353 (12-for-34) in 13 Grapefruit League games. Spring training stats don't carry much weight at all, but the important part is that the knee feels good and catching hasn't been an issue.
The big question for fantasy owners is how much Ramos will play this season. And for now, Nationals manager Davey Johnson plans to have him split time evenly with Kurt Suzuki, who was acquired from the A's last season. It's ultimately not a bad setup for a guy coming off a serious injury, but this figures to limit his output in mixed leagues in the short-term. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Ramos gets the majority of the starts as the season moves along. Remember, he hit .267 with 15 home runs and a .779 OPS in 113 games back in 2011, so don't sleep on him. Patience could pay off big in certain formats.
Gattis Makes the Braves
One of the most interesting stories in baseball continues, as 26-year-old Evan Gattis was informed Wednesday that he secured a spot on the Braves' Opening Day roster.
For those unfamiliar, Gattis once gave up baseball for four years and worked various odd jobs ranging from a cook to a ski-lift operator. However, he found his way back to the game and has garnered plenty of attention for his power potential.
After smacking 22 homers in 88 games for Class A Rome in 2011, Gattis had 18 bombs in 74 games last season between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi. Nicknamed "El Oso Blanco" (The White Bear) while tearing up the Venezuelan Winter League, he beat out Matt Pagnozzi for a roster spot this spring by hitting .357 (20-for-56) with six home runs, five doubles and 16 RBI.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Wednesday that Gattis could split time with Gerald Laird behind the plate while Brian McCann rehabs from shoulder surgery. He also didn't rule out the possibility that Gattis could play more than Laird. It's difficult to project what Gattis will do, as he was so much older compared to his competition in the minors, but his pop shouldn't be ignored. He could have some real value for the first month of the season in NL-only formats. Heck, he might even be worth considering in two-catcher mixed leagues if the playing time is there.
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