Cardinals icon Yadier Molina has heard from three non-Cardinals clubs since free agency has begun, agent Melvin Roman tells Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link). Unsurprisingly, Roman did not specify which clubs have reached out to this point in the very young offseason. So far, this is shaping up to be something of a public-facing free agency for Molina, as Roman has already been willing to put his name on record in stating his client’s hope for a two-year deal as well.
It’s difficult to picture Molina in the uniform of any club other than the Cardinals after the 38-year-old has spent the past 17 years in St. Louis. But Molina raised some eyebrows among Cardinals fans earlier this year when he declared that he wanted to continue playing and was willing to do so even if it meant signing with a new club. Roman previously indicated that Molina is seeking a two-year deal that would carry him through age 40 and, perhaps, through the end of his likely Hall of Fame career.
While we don’t know yet — and may not know — which clubs plan to seriously pursue Molina, it’s not hard to look around the league and pick out some potential landing spots. There’s already speculation about the Yankees moving on from Gary Sanchez, for instance, and there would be few more dramatic ways to flip the narrative in the Bronx than to move from the free-swinging, defensively challenged Sanchez to the high-contact, defensively revered Molina.
Elsewhere, the Mets are on the lookout for a new backstop with Wilson Ramos hitting free agency. The Phillies could lose J.T. Realmuto this winter, and the Marlins are also expected to explore catching upgrades on the heels of their surprising playoff berth. The Angels could use an upgrade, too. Wherever Molina does go, it’s logical to expect him to sign with a club that has clear postseason aspirations — one that can offer him regular playing time. The nine-time Gold Glover and four-time Platinum Glover already has a pair of rings on his resume and surely would like to add another in the waning stages of his career.
Molina’s bat has tailed off since a solid 2018 showing, but he’s put together a respectable .268/.310/.388 batting line with 14 home runs and a lowly 13 percent strikeout rate through 608 plate appearances over the past two seasons. That level of production — an 86 wRC+ — is well south of the league average hitter but isn’t far off the mark of the performance of the average catcher. And Molina still has well-regarded defensive numbers, including above-average framing marks, a 31.7 percent caught-stealing rate since 2019 and his reputation as one of the game’s premier game callers.
One of the more intriguing storylines — or, for Cardinals fans, more unsettling storylines — to follow this winter will be the future of Molina and fellow Cardinals icon Adam Wainwright. Both aim to continue playing in 2021, and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote last month that the longtime teammates have even discussed the possibility of signing elsewhere as a pair in free agency. All else equal, both would prefer to return to St. Louis, it seems. However, the Cards do have a younger option behind the plate in Andrew Knizner, and there’s already been plenty of talk about the financial limitations the front office might face this offseason.