In case you may have been under a rock the St. Louis Cardinals signed Catcher Yadier Molina to a new contract. The Cardinals granted Molina a 5-year (2013-2017) deal worth $75 million in guaranteed money and a club option for 2018. The Cardinals will pay the four-time Gold Glove catcher a $1 million signing bonus within a deal that provides full no-trade protection and lacks deferred money. I am glad that the Cardinals have secured a defensive juggernaut and anchor for the pitching staff. I feel that the Cardinals may have overreached just a little bit.
This signing has many other league executives grumbling about how far the Cardinals inflated the market for catchers (the Atlanta Braves and Brian McCann most notably). The position of catcher is often underrated and underpaid. I don’t know that the Cardinals drastically overspent, but I think Yadi got more than the market value. In Yadi the Cardinals have one of the top five catchers in the Major Leagues (an argument could be made for number 1). Now they are paying him like that as well. I had figured that the Cardinals would have to pay Yadi in the neighborhood of 10 million per year and was hoping for a 3-5 year deal. As a catcher I was leaning more toward the 3-year mark due to the wear and tear he will endure along with his age.
Let me clarify that I love Yadi. He is a warrior and those are few and far between in professional sports these days. One of my main concerns during the Albert Pujols negotiations was that if they paid him what they had offered it would all but ensure that we would lose Yadi and some others in order to make payroll. With the departure of said player (it still bothers me to type his name) there was some available cash. I am not sure if the Cardinals were wary of another prolonged negotiation and the chance to lose face with fans and players or if they honestly feel that Molina merits this type of salary. It doesn’t make a difference any longer, as he will be here to finish his career.
I am a little bit leery of this contract for a couple of main reasons. Typically catchers are underpaid due to their offensive production. I have long said about Yadi that I don’t care if he hits .150 as long as he handles the pitching staff and throws out the runners that are foolish enough to attempt to steal. With this contract and the loss of production from last year this is no longer an option. Molina’s offensive production improved last year, but it will have to improve yet again to justify this expense. The other issue that infuriates me about this contract is the inclusion of the no-trade clause. This continues to be an issue with this management. I understand that all players want that security, but there has to be a trade off with the amount of money they are being paid.
I fully anticipate that Yadi will not be the catcher he is now in year four and five of this contract. I also look for him to see some more time at first base this year to rest his legs. Did the Redbirds sign him to this deal to play first base in the final years of his contract if and when Lance Berkman hangs up his spikes? I am okay with this to a certain extent. Yadi will be one of the faces of the franchise now. He will have to start acting like it also. There will be no excuse for missing the Winter Warm Up and visits to the White House to celebrate World Championships. He must now embrace his role as a star and deal with the good and the bad.
This signing shows how important Yadi factors into the organization’s plans. He joins Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia as the only players under contract past 2013. This could be an insight to the club’s renewed focus on defense and smaller ball to win games. Yadi is being paid and treated like a franchise player. I hope he can live up to his end of the bargain and become more of an offensive force.
I have been amazed by the lack of outcry from either side in St. Louis and the media. Before the loss of our former first baseman there would have been a tremendous uproar from the media, fans, and blogosphere about how ridiculous this amount of money is for any catcher. There has been a marked ambivalence. It is as if everyone understands that this was a necessary evil and since there was some money lying around it is justified. I am not so certain. I think the $25 million difference from where I thought he would sign (a reasonable $10 million per year) may become crucial at some point if there are injuries or significant declines in offensive production of current roster players. I hope for our sake there doesn’t come a time where the organization is hamstrung by yet another no trade clause.
Welcome back Yadi. I am glad you are here, as is most if not all of Cardinal Nation. I wish you much health and success. I hope you continue to have that rocket arm, gold glove, and warrior mentality. I hope you become one of the Cardinal greats. Please work on reducing the number of double plays you hit into and continue to improve at the plate. WE need your production from that side of the plate now more than ever.