Wainwright is a huge bargain

Even with a $97.5 million contract, the Cardinals are getting a steal

Updated: April 28, 2013, 7:34 PM ET
By Mike Petriello | ESPN Insider
Adam WainwrightChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesAdam Wainwright (1.93 ERA) has struck out 37 batters this season while walking just one.

There's a pretty obvious trend happening these days in baseball, and it's that teams simply refuse to let top homegrown talent reach the open market. This is especially true when it comes to young pitching, where Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez, and Justin Verlander have all each signed extensions for at least $100 million since the beginning of the 2012 season. Clayton Kershaw, expected by most to be retained by the Los Angeles Dodgers before he reaches free agency after 2014, may soon top them all with baseball's first $200 million pitcher contact.

That's a whole lot of money given to keep some of the brightest pitching in the game right where it is. And considering the ever-increasing displays of wealth, it might be understandable that the March news out of St. Louis that the Cardinals had extended Adam Wainwright seemed to fly under the radar. After all, his new deal guarantees him a relatively paltry $97.5 million over five seasons starting in 2014, perhaps less than half of what Kershaw is expected to get.

Yet as we head into the final week of the first month of the season, it isn't Kershaw who has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball, nor Verlander, Darvish, or anyone else: It's Wainwright, who has struck out an astonishing 37 in 37 1/3 innings against just a single walk. Before he walked Washington's Bryce Harper in the sixth inning of a 2-0 St. Louis win on Tuesday night, he'd become the first pitcher since the 19th century to strike out more than 30 batters before issuing his first walk of the season.

It's an incredible accomplishment, yet as with his contract extension, few seem to be taking notice.