This winter’s free agency market has brought about some definite unpleasantries to the heart of the Cardinal faithful. As of right now I think we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that no more real heart breakers are lurking for us in the near future. That is until the end of the 2012 campaign. This will be the year another mainstay in Cardinal red becomes eligible to hit the market as a free agent. Yadi could be up for bid. What happens then? Well, my time machine is broke and the crystal ball is packed for the winter.
The Cardinals have picked up the 7 million dollar option on Molina’s contract for the 2012 season. Yadier Molina was drafted in the 4th round by the Cardinals in the 2000 amateur draft. He made his debut in June of the 2004 season. At the time of his debut he was the back up to a catcher that has been making quite a bit of news recently, Mike Matheny. After the 2004 season, Yadi took over behind the plate full time and has yet relinquish it.
We have grown accustomed to the rocket launcher arm that hangs from his shoulder. The pick offs to first base that are quicker than a lightning strike that leaves runners with a bewildered look on their face as they make the walk of shame back to the dugout. The glare when he guns down a runner who tests him. The raw emotion that he brings to the field. The tenacity he carries himself with and the “don’t even try me attitude” (ask Brandon Phillips about tapping him with your bat at the plate). These are all of things which have made Yadi one of those “special” players to the St. Louis fans. In 2008, after arbitration Molina said that he loved being here and being a Cardinal. We have heard that before.
Molina will turn 30 midseason next year and could hit the market at the end of the year. He is coming off of his best offensive season and his 4th Gold Glove. He was 2nd among catchers with innings played. His runners caught percentage was down this past year. However, he allowed the fewest stolen bases in the National League. Another factor in that, the secret is out, you don’t try Yadi.
So what happens? Hopefully the Cardinals have learned a valuable lesson this winter. The front office needs to make sure that Yadi is signed before All Star break next year. He should never make it to the free agent market. I think we have seen good things usually don’t happen when valuable players hit the market, sign him and be done with it. I am sure a certain newly acquired Angel will be in his ear and will a strong behind the scenes recruiter of Molina to take the trip. There is no doubt Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina are close friends. I feel the new skipper of the Birds pulls a lot of weight with Molina. If the unwavering support of the Cardinal Nation is not enough, maybe the relationship with Matheny will be enough to tilt the scales. Matheny was one of the main mentors in Molina’s early career. Matheny basically trained his replacement and made sure he was ready to step into his shoes. This will undoubtedly play into any decision Molina will be faced with making. However, he shouldn’t get the opportunity to test waters, let him know what he means to this franchise, make the offer and close the deal.
I think Molina will stay in St. Louis when it comes down to it. I just hope it can be done without the exorbitant amount of drama that came with this year’s market. I am not sure Cardinal fans can handle another harsh winter.