Extension Candidate: Yadier Molina

For the second straight winter, the Cardinals could face the prospect of losing a long-time star to free agency.  Yadier Molina is not Albert Pujols, but the catcher's defensive prowess and his underrated bat will make his long-term future a major topic of concern for the Cards throughout this season.

Molina's next contract is likely to pay him in the neighborhood of $10MM per season, though his skillset makes him markedly different from the only other two catchers (Jorge Posada and Joe Mauer) who have signed deals with a $10MM AAV.  Those players were both known primarily for their bats — Posada was a below-average defensive catcher while in Mauer's case, it's seemingly just a matter of time before injuries will eventually force him to move from behind the plate.

In Molina's case, however, defense is his calling card, be it throwing out would-be base-stealers (a 44% caught stealing rate over his career), picking off baserunners or his four Gold Gloves.  As if being considered the best defensive catcher in baseball wasn't enough, Molina is also an underrated threat at the plate.  Molina has hit .291/.348/.396 over the last four seasons, culminating with a career-best .814 OPS and 14 homers last season.

Molina is entering the last year of his contract with the Cardinals after the team made the no-brainer move of picking up their $7MM option on Molina for 2012.  GM John Mozeliak said last month that there was a mutual interest between the team and the catcher in an extension, and that the Cards were "going to try to find a way to make it work."

Though he turns 30 in July, Molina's age shouldn't prevent him from finding at least a four-year deal on the open market, provided of course that he produces as usual in 2012.  Between his consistent numbers, his defense, the scarcity of the catching position and his reputation as a clubhouse leader, Molina should be on pace to receive a four- or five-year contract worth $10MM per season, plus probably a club option year tacked onto the end.  

Molina and his representatives at MDR Sports Management could certainly find a contract like that on the free agent market, but would they find it in St. Louis?  One bright side of Pujols' departure is that it leaves the Cardinals with a good deal of long-term payroll flexibility.  Lance Berkman and Kyle Lohse come off the books after this year and Jake Westbrook's $8.5MM team option is unlikely to be exercised, so that frees up just under $33MM.  The Cards will have to decide about extending Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (the latter is likelier than the former, though Wainwright's health is a bit of a question mark post-Tommy John surgery) and also maybe explore multiyear deals for young stars like Allen Craig, Jason Motte and David Freese.  With just $68MM committed to the 2013 payroll, there seems to be no financial reason why the Cardinals couldn't bring Molina back.

There have been whispers that Molina may be disenchanted with the Cards' organization because they let his close friend Pujols leave, though new manager Mike Matheny denied this after recently speaking to Molina.  While most St. Louis fans have made their peace with Pujols' departure given the sheer size of his Angels contract, it wouldn't be good for the Cardinals from a PR perspective if another homegrown star (one who would've commanded far less of a financial commitment) also left town. 

Only Molina and his inner circle know if he truly wants to remain a Cardinal or not, but even if he doesn't, the Cards at least need to make every attempt to re-sign him.  Molina is too much of a pro to carry any negative feelings onto the field, so if the two sides can't work out a new deal before Opening Day, expect a relatively drama-free season akin to how Pujols carried himself in his walk year.  An extension would essentially guarantee that Molina retires as a Cardinal and, ironically, would mean that he would be supplanting his old friend as the face of the franchise.


35 Responses to Extension Candidate: Yadier Molina Leave a Reply

  1. Runtime 3 years ago

    Cards fail to sign Molina in the off season and acquire JP Arencibia (since they Jays have no use for him once D’Arnaud is ready)

    Calling it now.

  2. California_RedBirds 3 years ago

    Lock him up Mo. There’s no excuse not to especially since a bunch of money is coming off the books.

  3. cano24 3 years ago

    Yankee candidate. :)

  4. I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t sign him back. There is no one capable of starting for us in the minors. It will be a disaster if he leaves.

  5. 4yrs/$37-40M with mutual option for 5th yr? 
    Those knees aren’t gonna last if he keeps catching so many innings per yr

    • James Attwood 3 years ago

      Unless Molina is dead-set on remaining a Cardinal first, and on money as a later consideration, it would be surprising if he signs for less than $10 MM (AAV). I think, however, it is the years that will be the selling point in any eventual deal.

  6. I expect that this extension will get done—but not in the Joe Mauer or Jorge Posada range—probably somewhere in the 5 year-$45M-$50M range. Joe Mauer got what he did because he is a hometown player drafted by and playing for his hometown team.

    Having said that, Molina is approaching 30 (he turns 30 on July 13) and it has to be wondered if he will move to first base at some point during his next contract.

    • NickinIthaca 3 years ago

      I can’t see any team wasting that arm at first base…

      • jhfdssdaf 3 years ago

        I can’t see any team wasting first base on that bat.

        He hits for average, little or no power.  His bat plays well at catcher, second base, short stop, and center field.  Somehow, I don’t see him having the necessary speed for three of those four positions….

    • His bat would not play at first. He’d be the catcher the whole contract.

    • FunkyTime 3 years ago

      Mauer got what he did because he was an absolute beast before he signed that contract.  Molina’s best seasons would rank among Mauer’s worst.

      • bighiggy 3 years ago

        molina may not have mauer’s bat but his defense is ten times better than mauer’s! and baseball is a 2 sided sport, its not all offense, his defense is the best in the league

  7. NickinIthaca 3 years ago

    I try and watch him catch as much as possible. His game calling, arm, and even more so his snap throws make him one of the most exciting games in my humble opinion…

  8. nathanalext 3 years ago

    “Other two catchers (Jorge Posada and Joe Mauer) who have signed deals with a $10MM AAV.” 

    Mike Piazza count as well? Minor detail, but, the point still stands.

    I hope he goes to say, the Angels, and get him from away from the NL-C. :)

    • Dylan 3 years ago

      Also, McCann will soon as well.  Does Victor Martinez count?

    • Amish_willy 3 years ago

      Yeah their have been several other catchers that signed for 10m/yr. The Tigers gave Pudge 4/40m with an option that ended up being excercised, making it 5/50m. Jason Kendall signed a 6/60m deal with the Pirates a decade ago.

      I’d expect Yadier to get a deal like 4/50m or 5/60m if he hits free agency next season when you factor in inflation. 10m/yr only seems realistic if he re-signs with the Cards, unless he has a poor/injured season.

    • MetsMagic 3 years ago

      Piazza’s was 7/$91mm, which was the biggest contract ever for a position player at the time. I’ll wager that Molina won’t sniff that amount. Jason Kendall got 6/60mm from the Bucs, and I can see Yadier signing for something close to that, but in the 5-year range. 

  9. valkscool 3 years ago

    I think they should sign him to a 3 year deal worth $33,000,000.

  10. JamesOrLurch 3 years ago

    My guess/hope is $12 mill for 4-5 years with 2 team options at $13-14 mill each with bonuses for GG, SS, MVP, and All Star selection.

    Get it done, Mo.

  11. If St. Louis doesn’t re-sign him, I’d like to think that the Rockies could make a play for him.  

  12. Dave P 3 years ago

    I thought after the 04 World Series…Jason Varitek signed a 4 yr…40 million contract???  10 million average??

  13. Chillin_in_California 3 years ago

    The cardinals have absolutely no execuse to not sign this guy. Get it done

  14. Jason Varitek also had a contract worth 10 million per year…he is much more comparable to Molina than the others you listed.

  15. Jimmy Wehmeier 3 years ago

    The Cards caused more harm not signing Pujols.

  16. It’s pretty bad that this article was already written in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week. And it didn’t contain errors from lack of research into previous catcher contracts either.

  17. James Grenard 3 years ago

    Hopefully he will be open to signing an extension during the season. I don’t wanna go through the long off season waiting game again just to be disappointed.

  18. Jacob Viets 3 years ago

    I would sign him to a 7 year 83 million dollar deal.

  19. Hopefully not. That would be an overpay IMO.

  20. stewie75 3 years ago

     cubs would glaaadly pay that. esp if it’s only 4 years.

  21. bacboris 3 years ago

    is it too early to start the movement for Koyie Hill to be the Cards starting catcher in 2013?
    -Your ‘friends’ to the north

  22. Amish_willy 3 years ago

    Molina will make for an interesting case study if he does hit free agency. Players like Beltran and Aramis Ramirez got around 12m/yr. I’d guess he’s viewed as valuable as either of those two considering the impact he has on limiting runs on the board. Of course he’ll be hitting free agency at only 30 compared to 34/35 and will be in line for a longer deal than either.

  23. cano24 3 years ago

    Maybe, it depends how Martin does this year.  Sanchez is probably at least a few years away.

  24. jhfdssdaf 3 years ago

    A bat-heavy third baseman can play until age 40 – they can move to first, left field, or DH if needed.  A defensive minded catcher can’t.  Don’t pay attention to starting age.  Pay attention to future career length instead.

    That being said, I think he has four or five good years left in him before his body gives out, so 4/$48 would be a bargain.  I think he gets a million or two more per year, and tack on a mutual option with a buyout on the end.

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