The Cardinals locked up their staff ace and their staff leader when they gave righty Adam Wainwright a five-year deal for $97.5 million, which will keep him with the club until 2018.
Wainwright's first assignment as a long-term Cardinal will be to start the first game of the season Monday night in Arizona.
The five-year length of the deal matches an extension right hander Chris Carpenter signed as the longest in club history. The total value of the contract is the third largest in club history behind those of current left fielder Matt Holliday and former first baseman Albert Pujols.
Folks around the club have noticed Wainwright being different this spring. "They said I was a little more ... serious," Wainwright, 31, said. "Before, I felt like I could be serious when I needed to be serious, but I sort of have a different role.
"We have a lot of young faces in (here). I want to be me. But at the same time as being me -- that great Cardinal legacy -- I want to make sure I'm passing that on, correctly."
Carpenter's absence because of a recurrence of a nerve issue leaves a void in the rotation and clubhouse that many are looking to Wainwright to fill as the next generation, righties Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha emerge.
Wainwright didn't get as much money as, say, Philadelphia lefty Cliff Lee, who signed for $120 million for five years. But he said, "I just realized I have complete peace about staying in St. Louis. That's worth more than a few extra dollars."
Wainwright won 19 and 20 games, respectively, in 2009 and 2010 before suffering an elbow injury and undergoing Tommy John surgery that cost him 2011. Last year, he was 14-13 and his rebuilt arm should be stronger this year.
"I love our clubhouse from the attendants to every player in there," said Wainwright.
"I just don't know if it gets better anywhere else. I've had opposing players come up and say, 'You don't know how good you have it here.' Actually, I do realize how good I have it."