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Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the news.
Wainwright enjoyed a strong bounce-back season in 2020. He compiled a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 54 strikeouts in 65.2 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a limited sample size amid the coronavirus-shortened campaign, but it was closer to his peak than fans had witnessed in recent years.
The 39-year-old Georgia native struggled with injuries and a drop in production beginning in 2015, when he was limited to seven appearances because of a torn Achilles.
His numbers from 2015 through 2019 were pedestrian, especially for one of the National League‘s best pitchers for the better part of a decade. He’d posted a 4.44 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 103 games over that five-year span, which suggested his decorated career might be nearing its conclusion.
By comparison, he’d amassed a terrific 2.99 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in the eight seasons between 2006 and 2014 for the Cards. It’s a stretch that included three All-Star selections and two World Series titles.
The right-hander’s return to form came in a contract year and he hit the free-agent market at a time the Cardinals’ front office was deciding whether to retain former franchise cornerstones or opt for younger, cheaper alternatives. Longtime Redbirds catcher Yadier Molina found himself in a similar situation.
“Every player has an expiration date,” Wainwright told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers in November. “It’s just the nature of the game. You will never hear me say a bad word about the city of St. Louis or the Cardinals organization. They’ve done so much for me. They’re amazing people from top to bottom. I’ve been so blessed.”
Even though it wasn’t a foregone conclusion he’d return to St. Louis—the Kansas City Royals were a rumored suitor while he was a free agent—it’s no surprise the sides came together to make it work. He’s played his entire MLB career with the Cards after being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2000.
Wainwright should provide depth behind Jack Flaherty and Kwang Hyun Kim in the Cardinals rotation to open 2021.