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5 Things That Should Happen…But Probably Won’t

In the wake of the Adam Wainwright injury, Cardinal Nation is struggling to re-position ourselves for a season that suddenly looks drastically different than how we envisioned it. We thought we would have a rotation to rival Phillie. We thought this would be the “World Tour” season for Albert Pujols’ “Life as a Cardinal” contract.

In the immortal words of Hitch in the movie of the same name, “I saw that going differently in my mind.”

Last night, I found myself wondering…what would help me make the adjustment? What could make 2011 look all bright and cheerful again? And I found myself thinking of a few items here and there that…if I’m truly honest with myself…will likely never happen. So in true blogger tradition, I’ve decided to share my pessimism-born-of-hopeful-optimism with the world. Below are my “5 Things That Should Happen But Probably Won’t”:

1. Albert Pujols needs to contact Mo and DeWitt and commit to getting a contract in place before Opening Day 2011. If both sides are TRULY committed to getting a deal done to keep Albert a Cardinal for life, then both sides need to show it. Yes, as Matthew Leach said earlier this week on the UCB Radio Hour, the Cardinals haven’t offered their “threshold” contract yet because they simply haven’t had to; and in my estimation, Albert hasn’t settled for less than astronomical numbers because, again, he simply hasn’t had to – but let’s dispense with all the posturing. Waino has changed the atmosphere. Let’s get together and come to an agreement. Announcing an extension before Opening Day could re-energize this team and its manager and give us a decent push well into May or June. Just in time for item #2…

2. Mo and DeWitt need to get together and put a decent spin on this Wainwright situation. I don’t mean for the Cardinals…I mean for Adam. Cardinal Nation is not only hurting for our team…we’re hurting for Adam personally. We love the guy, and we know how important this 2 year option was to him. Mo and DeWitt both know they can’t let Adam walk into free agency after this year, and they can’t just take a $21 million option for a player getting Tommy John surgery on Monday. But…they can work out an extension instead. Sit down with Adam and work out something that looks like this:

2012 Low Salary Compared to $9 Million of the Option Deal with Significant Appearance Incentives
2013 No Incentives Here – A Salary Resembling Year 1 of the Original Option ($9 Million?)
2014 No Incentives Here* – A Salary Resembling Year 2 of the Original Option ($11 – $13 Million?)
2015 Team Option for a Salary Closer to What a Fully Recovered Wainwright is Worth ($15 – $18 Million?)

Of course, I’m sure you noticed the asterisk (*) on 2014…it stands for “maybe an incentive.” For example, if Waino finishes in the top 5 of the Cy Young voting for 2013, why not offer either a lower $11 Million salary in 2014 but with a one-time bonus of a couple million…OR…an automatic vesting clause on the 2015 option?

The point is…announcing Wainwright is locked up for a few more years could take some of the sting off the injury news for Cardinal Nation as well as lift Adam’s spirits a bit and lay the groundwork for a future, longer contract for a so-far great Cardinal.

3. Get an extension done with Chris Carpenter by the end of August. The MLB trade deadline will be over and done with so any late season pick ups will further inform the 2012 payroll. Carp is a modern icon in St. Louis. He’s the heart of the Cardinals rotation, and with Waino recovering from surgery, we need the stability over the next couple years. Plus, Wainwright’s contract restructuring should save us a few million we can afford to spend on another pitcher. Who else are you going to get that is better than Carp for the money? Put together something like this:

2012 $11 Million?
2013 $10 Million?
2014 Mutual Option for $9 Million?

I’m just throwing out numbers here…I really have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to finances, but the way I see it is this: If Carp makes it through August strong, lock him up for the next 2 – 3 years. That puts him close to 39 and near (if not at) the end of his career in a city/club he loves and one that loves him. Given his environment and arm issues, I could easily see Carp retiring at the end of that final Cardinal season…or signing a one year deal to finish it out. Throw in the possibility to finish his career side by side with Wainwright, and the pot looks even sweeter for Carp.

4. Sign Yadier Molina to an extension in September. I really have no idea what a catcher like Molina would bring, so I’m not even going to try. But I do know a few things about Yadi’s situation from a fan’s perspective. Signing Yadi only increases the likelihood of signing Carp long-term (assuming he knows something is in the works when he signs his contract in August), and signing Waino/Carp with Garcia and Westbrook already in the plans perhaps encourages Yadi to stay? But the big one…signing Yadi only improves the long-term outlook of the Cardinals from the perspective of Mr. Pujols. Such a close friend already signed in September? That’s gotta’ make Albert think even harder about growing comfortable with the birds on the bat for the next 7 to 10 years.

5. I should start a weekly podcast about the Cardinals this year. School’s out, I may have the free time, and who wouldn’t want to hear me rant for a half hour each week?! I’ve always wanted to boost my ego with hundreds of adoring fans salivating over their keyboards as they tune into my inner Cardinal mania via the “airwaves.” Why not now? With Albert and Waino…it could be a walk in the park for consistent topics sure to “pack ’em in.” Timing couldn’t be better. But…alas…best laid plans…

Wrap-Up:
So, there you have it…5 things I think should happen this season but most likely won’t even get close (many with the theme of having big contract questions out of the way so we can focus on Albert in the offseason). More than likely, the Cards let themselves be paralyzed by the Pujols situation until they know what their long-term payroll looks like, don’t sign Carp/Waino or Yadi until after the season…if at all…and then enter lengthy Pujols negotiations that last so far into the offseason that we miss out on any and all replacements for Albert on the free agent market. And as for my podcasting future? Hehe…not likely.

GO CARDS!!!

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