St. Louis Cardinals: Should Yadier Molina be extended past 2020?
Yadier Molina now wants to play beyond 2020, possibly into 2022. Would Molina’s return in 2021 be the best move for the St. Louis Cardinals? Yes or no, it’s a careful and cautious move and fits the Cardinals.
Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on Wednesday that Yadier Molina’s agent told the St. Louis Cardinals the future Hall of Fame catcher would like to return in 2021 and possibly in 2022. If the Cardinals grant Molina a two-year extension, it would mean the currently 37-year old would be nearly 40 on Opening Day of the 2022 season.
This creates several questions the Cardinals will have to deal with if Molina is extended. These questions include the future of the seemly heir-apparent Andrew Knizner. Can the Cardinals afford to continue to keep Knizner waiting in the wings for two more seasons? If Molina is extended, will Knizner become expendable and be traded like Carson Kelly? Also, is there a new heir apparent in the organization the Cardinals have their eye on?
If the Cardinals plan to keep Knizner, can they persuade Molina to take a reduced role and gradually transition to the 24-year old Virginia native? Finally, with the reduction of Molina’s defensive skills and offensive production in recent years, what is the Cardinals plan for the next three years in regard to the catcher’s position?
Yadi ain’t what he used to be.
I’m not trying to be cute when I say Yadier Molina isn’t what he use to be. In recent years his defensive skills and offensive production have dropped noticeably. Additionally, his games played have gradually fallen from a career-high of 147 in 2016 to just 113 in 2019.
Yadi had his best OPS years from 2011 to 2013 when it was .814, .874, .836 respectfully. Since 2016, his OPS has dropped from .787 to .711 in 2019.
However, it’s his defensive skills that have taken the biggest hit in recent years. Molina’s runners caught stealing has dropped from 26 in 2015 to just 8 in 2019. His caught stealing percentage only dropped below 41% twice from 2004 to 2015. In 2006 it was an incredible 64% and in 2007 54%. Since 2015, that percentage has dropped to 21% in 2016, 36% in 2017, 31% in 2008, and 27% in 2019.
His Rdrs/yr, which is a stat used to measure defensive runs saved, has also dropped off significantly in recent years. In 2015 it was 9, by 2019 it has fallen to 2. Yadi’s best year for Rdrs was 32 in 2013, the last year this stat was in double digits for the Cardinal catcher.
What his defensive metrics show is Yadier Molina is still at least a league-average catcher, however, with declining skills. His offensive production is still steady but has also been gradually slipping.
If Yadi is extended, what’s the future for Andrew Knizner?
Extending Yadi Molina for another two years, makes you wonder what the Cardinals will do with Andrew Knizner until 2022. In only 16 games at the catcher position in 2019, Knizner’s defensive metrics don’t add up to Molina’s.
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His Rdrs/year was at -21, but his caught stealing percentage was 75%. Consequently, it’s hard to make a judgment on Knizner’s ability to replace Yadi with such a limited sample.
His offensive stat line of .226/.293/..337 with an OPS of .670 doesn’t really reflect his readiness to be a full-time replacement for Yadi with only 58 plate appearances.
I thought 2020 would be the transition year from Yadi Molina to Andrew Knizner. However, with an extension for Yadi, will that be in the Cardinals game plan? I don’t see it.
One option for the Cardinals could be another player sitting in the minor leagues. Could that player be Ivan Herrera who reached Low-A Peoria last year? After all, he has raised eyebrows, especially with his performance in the AFL. Herrera’s AFL slash line of .324/.439/.382 may be enough for him to start the year at AA Springfield in 2020.
If Yadi stays through 2022, could Herrera be ready by 2023 to take over in St. Louis? Are the Cardinals looking at him as opposed to Knizner as an heir apparent for Yadi Molina? Will Knizner be trade bait this winter and the Cardinals sign a journeyman backup for Yadi?
What I think
The St. Louis Cardinals won’t say no to Yadi and will sign him to an extension. Andrew Knizner will be the backup for Yadi Molina in 2020. Also, Knizner will get significant playing time in 2020. Why? If recent history tells us anything, Yadi will likely spend some time on the IL.
John Mozeliak indicated in a recent press conference that he couldn’t see any significant moves coming during the offseason. That will include Andrew Knizner. If Yadi is extended, then the Cardinals will use 2020 to take a close look at Knizner’s and Herrera’s progress.
That’s what an organization like the Cardinals do. Careful and cautious. Yadi’s extension allows them to be exactly what they are.