Yadier Molina Rumors

Central Notes: Madson, Wood, Castillo, Cardinals

Ryan Madson, who’s in Royals camp and who faced live batters for the first time in a year and a half on Sunday, encountered plenty of obstacles as he battled back from Tommy John surgery, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Madson, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2011, ultimately spent the 2014 season out of baseball. But he got the urge to come back after Royals special assistant Jim Fregosi, Jr. enlisted him to help instruct a Southern California high school pitcher. Madson does not have any limitations in camp this spring, although it’s unclear whether he’ll be available to join the Royals’ bullpen once the season starts. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • Cubs pitcher Travis Wood hasn’t been given a heads-up from the team on the likelihood of a trade, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. “If I get traded, I get traded. It’s part of the business,” Wood said.  At present, Wood figures to battle for the fifth spot in the rotation alongside Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix DoubrontJon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks, of course, make up the Cubs’ front four.
  • The Cubs trading Welington Castillo is not a foregone conclusion, as President Theo Epstein says the team is considering keeping three catchers, tweets Bruce Levine of 670theScore.com.
  • Yadier Molina has lost 15-20 pounds this offseason after injuries limited the Cardinals catcher to 110 games and forced him to miss the final three games of the NLCS, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Molina has three years and an option remaining on his contract and expects to play beyond its length. “Oh, my God. I’m 32 years old. I’ll play as long as my body lets me. Who knows? Maybe I’ll catch 10 more years. You don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows.
  • In a separate article, Hummel details how Cardinals reliever Randy Choate has expressed his frustration to manager Mike Matheny about being used for complete innings (and being exposed to right-handed hitters) rather than in his specialty of lefty-on-lefty situations. Matheny says the confines of a 25-man roster prevents using a player in such a limited way. “You can’t completely cater to one guy if it’s going to beat up two other guys where they can’t do their job. How does that work?
  • Cardinals infielder Pete Kozma, who is fighting for a roster spot and is out of options, is increasing his versatility by donning the tools of ignorance with hopes of serving as the team’s emergency catcher, according to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.

Yadier Molina Out Eight To Twelve Weeks With Torn Thumb Ligament

Catcher Yadier Molina of the Cardinals has suffered a torn thumb ligament, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He is expected to miss eight to twelve weeks, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).

Molina, a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, has been off his usual pace at the plate but is still one of the game’s most productive catchers. He owns a .287/.341/.409 triple-slash on the year, after averaging a .842 OPS over his last three campaigns. Also regarded as one of (if not the) best defensive backstops and staff managers in baseball, Molina is essentially irreplaceable.

In the immediate term, the Cards will call up minor leaguer Audry Perez to fill Molina’s roster spot, tweets ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. But it would be more than a stretch to suggest that Perez, along with seldom-used backup Tony Cruz, can match Molina’s production and presence for the club.

Certainly, the loss of Molina would appear to position St. Louis as a possible buyer behind the plate. The club will take its time finding a fill-in reports Goold (via Twitter). The club does not feel it needs to make a move before the All-Star game.

MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently took a look at a relatively barren catching market. Of course, the recently-designated A.J. Pierzynski is also fully available, though ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that he gets the sense that Pierzynski is not a top option for St. Louis. Another possibility, Crasnick suggests on Twitter (and Goold also notes the team will consider), is veteran John Buck, who was recently designated by the Mariners. And ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden opines on Twitter that Kurt Suzuki of the Twins — twice traded to contenders in the last two years and playing on a cheap, one-year deal — could make the most sense as a target.

Quick Hits: Molina, Rangers, Hoyer, Yankees, Dotel

Earl Webb's Major League record of 67 doubles in a season has stood since 1931 but Orioles phenom Manny Machado could be putting that mark in jeopardy.  Machado now has 30 doubles through 68 Baltimore games after collecting a pair of two-baggers in Friday's 2-0 win over the Red Sox.  Only five 21st century players have come within even 11 doubles of Webb's record, one of whom was Machado's teammate Brian Roberts, who hit 56 doubles in 2009.

Here's the latest from around the baseball world…

  • Yadier Molina's value to the Cardinals is immeasurable, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler writes, and for a team that has been comfortable letting many key figures go in recent years, the Cards made a point to lock their catcher up to a five-year, $75MM extension in March 2012.  "[Owner Bill DeWitt and I] talked about players who were coming up on free agency, and we'd ask how do you replace them. He and I always felt that [Molina] was the one where we had no answer," Cards GM John Mozeliak said.  "It was imperative that we kept him."
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels is waiting to see how his team performs over the next few weeks before determining what possible upgrades are needed at the trade deadline, Daniels said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Fitzsimmons and Durrett Show (passed on by ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett).  Daniels also noted that the club may keep Jurickson Profar on the Major League roster even after Ian Kinsler is back from the DL, and that Profar could get some outfield time if he is in fact sent back to Triple-A.
  • ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden lists 20 pitchers he feels could be traded this summer.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer felt Kris Bryant was "the best player on the board" when Chicago had the second overall pick in the draft, though Hoyer tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that pitching "is an organizational weakness….I don’t think it affects our timing, but it does mean that pitching will be an emphasis in future drafts and any kind of trades we might make, and in free agency.”
  • The Yankees' makeshift lineup has remained in contention but ratings on the YES Network are down 38% from last season, leading Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal to speculate if the Bombers may feel obligated to acquire star players in order to maximize fan and business interest.
  • Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel's elbow injury could endanger his season, and since Dotel is 39, MLB.com's Jason Beck wonders if the veteran's career could also be threatened.
  • Andre Ethier isn't letting trade speculation bother him since "it's nothing you can have a say about except to go out there and play hard," he tells Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.  Ethier could be expendable in the Dodgers outfield once Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp return from injury, given Yasiel Puig's emergence.
  • Baseball America's staff checks in on the progress of the 2012 first round draft picks.

NL Central Notes: Molina, Astros, Das

There's been lots of Pirates buzz today, following Andrew McCutchen's six year, $51.5MM contract extension. Here are some notes on the rest of the division…

  • Yadier Molina's representatives were preparing to aim for a seven-year deal in the $140MM range if the catcher had reached free agency, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Some teams might have been willing to part with that kind of cash for Molina, an elite two-way player. "He's like the Deion Sanders of catchers,'' one executive told Heyman. Molina, who would have been eligible for free agency following the 2012 season, signed a five-year, $75MM extension with the Cardinals last week.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that he believes discipline is necessary for building an MLB team. “The analogy I use is blackjack,” Luhnow said. “You play perfect strategy over a long haul, that’s going to be your best outcome." Tim Dierkes spoke with Luhnow last week.
  • Arbitrator Shyam Das was recently in the news for ruling in favor of Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, but as Cary Spivak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains, the 67-year-old former law professor has ruled on a number of important MLB issues in the past. Das has dealt with trades, player discipline and other disputes between the players' union and MLB. Spivak's piece offers a personal look at the low-profile arbitrator.

Quick Hits: Walden, Indians, A’s, Appel, Molina

Here are some notes from around the majors…

  • The Angels renewed the contract of closer Jordan Walden, the team announced.  The Halos also agreed to terms with 21 other players on one-year deals for 2012.
  • The Indians are "looking around for a left fielder" in the wake of Grady Sizemore's injury, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  With so many outfielders already in camp, the Tribe are likely looking for no more than another part-timer on a minor league contract.
  • Bill Madden of the New York Daily News believes Major League Baseball won't allow the Athletics to move to San Jose.  Madden doesn't think three-quarters of the teams would approve of violating the Giants' territorial rights to San Jose, quoting a baseball lawyer who says teams would be wary of voting for a measure that could cost them in the future.  As an example, the Phillies, Mets and Yankees wouldn't be likely to vote against territorial rights since such votes be used as precedent for a team to someday move to New Jersey.
  • Right-hander Mark Appel hasn't quite pitched up to expectations for Stanford this season, writes Baseball America's Conor Glassey.  In particular, Appel's K/9 rate is lower than several recent high-drafted pitchers during their sophomore years.  Appel is a contender to be the first overall pick in the June amateur draft.
  • Yadier Molina's five-year, $75MM extension with the Cardinals was driven by the catcher's defense and leadership, reports MLB.com's Matthew Leach.  "[The St. Louis pitchers] understand his value more than sabermetricians could ever start to pick it apart, and what other people inside the game even understand," said Cards manager Mike Matheny.  "There's so many intangibles. You can't put numbers to the things that this guy does in helping this team win. And I think that's [exemplified by] two world championships since he's taken over behind the plate."

NL Central Notes: Burnett, Cardinals, Astros

Though two NL Central veterans dominated headlines this offseason, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder signed with American League teams and Aramis Ramirez's three-year, $36MM deal with the Brewers was the largest free agent contract by any of the division's six teams. Here are the latest links from the NL Central…

  • The Pirates announced that they expect A.J. Burnett’s eye injury to sideline him until two or three months from now. The right-hander underwent surgery today after injuring himself in a bunting drill.
  • Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the Cardinals couldn't take the chance of letting Yadier Molina hit free agency. "We didn't extend Molina because he had a good year offensively last year,” he said. “We extended him because of the bulk of the work since he became a regular in 2005." Molina and the Cardinals finalized a five-year, $75MM extension yesterday.
  • Four of the ten people Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has hired might be described as geeks or nerds, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports from the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston (Twitter links). Luhnow said he’s had a clean slate, since the Astros weren't doing much in terms of analytics before hiring him.

Catcher Extension Notes: Perez, Molina, Ruiz

The 2013 class of free agent catchers is taking shape. Yadier Molina and the Cardinals signed a five-year, $75MM extension this week, but Miguel Montero and Russell Martin have tabled extension talks for now and Mike Napoli expects to test free agency. Here are the latest notes on catcher extensions in MLB…

  • One agent joked to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that Royals GM Dayton Moore “must have been wearing a ski mask” to convince Salvador Perez to sign a five-year, $7MM extension (Twitter link). I examined the extension earlier in the week, explaining what Perez will have to do for the Royals to break even.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests the Diamondbacks and Braves might be ticked off by Molina's extension. The deal figures to shift the market for catchers and it may now cost more to retain the likes of Montero and Brian McCann. Rosenthal says the Cardinals' deal with Molina is an overpay, but an understandable one given the value of Molina's defense. 
  • David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News explains that the Molina deal isn't a fair point of reference for Carlos Ruiz. Though Ruiz and Molina have posted similar offensive numbers in recent years, the Phillies’ catcher won't hit free agency until he's entering his age-35 season and allowed stolen bases with much greater frequency than Molina in 2011.

Cardinals Extend Yadier Molina

The Cardinals announced a five-year, $75MM contract extension with catcher Yadier Molina this afternoon.  The deal includes a no-trade clause and a mutual option for 2018 that's worth an additional $15MM.  Molina is represented by Melvin Roman of MDR Sports Management.

Molina, 29, is considered by many to be the game's best defensive catcher.  His offense took a leap forward in 2011, as he posted a .305/.349/.465 line in 518 plate appearances.  Molina has been durable, averaging 145 games over the last three years including the postseason.  The $15MM salary and five-year term probably represents market value for Molina, but it may have been more difficult for GM John Mozeliak to hammer out a deal after the season.  

Molina's contract is the third-largest in baseball history for a backstop, behind Joe Mauer's $184MM and Mike Piazza's $91MM.  On the Cardinals, Molina is second only to Matt Holliday in average annual value.  This is Molina's second multiyear deal with the Cardinals, as they locked him up affordably four years ago.

The 2012-13 free agent class for catchers remains deep with Molina off the board, with Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, Russell Martin, and Chris Iannetta.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first tweeted the news and added existence of the vesting option later on.  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the value of the contract.  Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first said the deal was all but done and Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch first reported the mutual option.

Extension Updates: Hosmer, Stanton, Molina

The Cardinals will officially announce their five-year extension with Yadier Molina this afternoon. In the meantime, here are some extension-related links…

Cardinals, Yadier Molina Closing In On Extension

8:28pm: The deal is in the $70-75MM range, Rosenthal tweets.

6:20pm: The sides are "very close" on a five-year extension worth north of $60MM, reports Rosenthal (Twitter links).

4:29pm: Both sides are "very optimistic" and terms are "all but finalized," Strauss tweets. The deal's average annual value would likely exceed $10MM, Strauss reports. Resolution is expected this week. 

2:47pm: "We are making progress and hopefully we can work something out," Yadier Molina's agent Melvin Roman said to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports today, regarding contract extension talks for the Cardinals catcher.  Rosenthal's sources say the Cards "likely are willing to give him a deal of four and possibly five years."  The FOX writer expects a salary in the $10-12MM range.

On Friday, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted, "Movement on Molina is significant enough that a source familiar with the situation believes an agreement could be reached within a week."  Earlier, Roman indicated Molina did not want to negotiate during the season, according to Strauss.  The Cardinals open the season April 4th at the Marlins' new ballpark.