First of all, let me say this: I think the Cardinals will sign Adam Wainwright to an extension and it will likely happen before the start of the 2013 season. However, I also thought the same thing regarding Albert Pujols. In fact, I was almost certain the Cardinals and Pujols would come to terms, right up to the point that he signed with the Angles.
I've already taken a look at some of the factors the Cardinals must weigh regarding a possible extension with Wainwright. So, in the interest of covering all the bases, let's take a look at the Cardinals other options:
If the Cardinals cannot reach an agreement with Wainwright, the most obvious choice they have is to let Adam become a free agent after the 2013 season. If this were to happen, its likely that the Cards will make Wainwright a qualifying offer, so that they can at least receive draft pick compensation should he sign elsewhere.
The Cardinals can then let the market determine his price and see if they want to match it. However, the Cards will have lost their leverage as the only team that can negotiate with him and, as we have seen with Pujols, there is no guarantee that he will resign with the Cardinals.
This is probably a no-win situation for the Cards as they will either have to pay market rate (or higher, if a team like the Yankees gets involved) in order to keep Wainwright or they will just receive a sandwich pick after the first round of the 2014 draft as compensation.
As far-fetched as it may seem, trading Wainwright could be the Cardinals best option (short of signing him to an extension, of course).
Despite the fact that teams who acquire a player from another team during a season will not be given draft pick compensation for losing that player to free agency after the season, it did not appear to affect the trade market significantly in 2012. The Brewers traded Zack Greinke to the Angels for Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena, who were ranked as the Angels #2, #4 and #9 prospects by Baseball America prior to the season.
Wainwright should be able to fetch a similar package of prospects in return and there are probably two scenarios in which the Cardinals would be likely to trade Wainwright: (1) they enter July more than 10 games back in the Wild Card standings, or, more likely, (2) Rafael Furcal has suffered a season-ending injury and the tandem of Ryan Jackson and Pete Kozma just isn't cutting it at short.
If the Cardinals are desperate for an upgrade at short and they figure they're going to lose Wainwright after the season anyway, why not trade him to a team looking for pitching for a long-term solution at short. I suggested in a previous article that the Rangers and Cards could possibly match up in a pitching-for-shortstop trade. While a package like Lance Lynn and someone like Michael Wacha might not be enough to land uber-prospect Jurickson Profar, surely Wainwright would at least net them Profar in return (if not more).
With the loss of Chris Carpenter and the health concerns of Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals will likely do everything they can to lock up Wainwright long-term. However, if the price gets too high, the Cardinals will have to at least consider the possibility of trading Wainwright at mid-season.