Catcher Yadier Molina and the Cardinals have had preliminary talks about an extension, Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman reports. Cards GM John Mozeliak says that if the two sides can hammer out a deal, they would like to complete it before the start of the season, as is frequently the goal with extension talks.
Last month, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reported that both Molina and the Cardinals had interest in a new contract. The 34-year-old Molina is heading into the last season of the five-year, $75MM deal he signed prior to the 2013 season, although he has a $15MM mutual option or $2MM buyout for 2018.
Despite his advancing age, Molina remained productive in 2016, hitting .307/.360/.427 and receiving solid marks for his defense and framing while playing 147 games. He did miss brief periods over the course of his current deal due to a 2013 knee sprain and a 2014 torn thumb ligament, but he’s otherwise been remarkably durable, appearing in at least 136 games in three of the last four seasons. Molina’s career as a whole, of course, has been terrific, with eight Gold Gloves and seven All-Star berths.
As Heyman notes, Molina’s current deal provided a precedent for longer extensions for catchers like Russell Martin and Brian McCann. Still, it’s highly likely that a new contract for Molina would be shorter in duration than his last one. Molina would be 35 by the start of the 2018 season, and catcher aging patterns aren’t pretty (although Molina’s framing should help him in that regard, just as it did with his brother Jose).
The Cardinals also have well-regarded catching prospect Carson Kelly, and as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted last month, Kelly’s emergence would appear to be a factor in potential Molina extension talks. Kelly appears likely to begin the 2017 season with Triple-A Memphis, but the two players could potentially both play the catcher position in coming years if the Cardinals extend Molina. Molina has also occasionally played first base in the last several seasons, and perhaps there’s a possibility he could play that position a bit more frequently as he ages.