Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will undergo surgery to repair the ligament tear in his left thumb this afternoon, tweets MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. Following the operation, he’ll be shut down from all baseball activity for the next eight to 12 weeks, Langosch adds. This actually marks the second time that Molina has been sidelined for eight to 12 weeks by a torn ligament in his thumb, though the last instance came in the summer of 2014, and the injury was sustained in his right thumb, not his left.
Molina sustained his current injury in mid-September and sat out the final few weeks of the season but made an attempt to return in the playoffs. The 33-year-old appeared in three NLDS games against the Cubs but exited after a painful-looking swing in the third game and didn’t return for the decisive Game 4. Tony Cruz replaced him in each instance.
While Molina’s timeline for recovery will have him capable of getting up to speed with baseball activities sometime between early December and early January, his status is worth monitoring, as any meaningful setback could push his recovery closer to Spring Training.
Molina was having a down season at the plate even before injuring his thumb, as his .270/.310/.350 batting line paled in comparison to the .307/.355/.461 triple-slash that he logged in the four prior seasons. Then again, this marks the second consecutive season in which Molina has slugged under .400 and recorded an isolated power (slugging minus batting average) near or below the .100 mark. Both could be indicators of a decline in offensive production as the workhorse backstop enters his mid-30s, and of course the after-effects of a second hand surgery could impact his future production at the plate.
Nonetheless, Molina is about as well-regarded a defensive catcher as one can find throughout the game and should continue to carry that reputation moving forward. He caught more than 40 percent of opposing base stealers for the sixth time in seven seasons in 2015, and he again posted characteristically strong pitch-framing numbers, per StatCorner.com and Baseball Prospectus. Molina will earn $14MM in each of the next two seasons as part of a five-year, $75MM extension signed in Spring Training 2012. St. Louis also holds a $15MM option on Molina for the 2018 season, which comes with a $2MM buyout.