Without much of a surprise, the St. Louis Cardinals are likely going to resign Yadier Molina for another extension beyond 2020, keeping him in red for life.
We all figured this would be coming, it was just a matter of when it would be confirmed. No matter how much the St. Louis Cardinals try, they will always have a sweet spot for Yadier Molina. As they should.
The Hall of Fame catcher has spent his entire career with the Cardinals and never wants to wear another jersey. In his career, Molina has won nine Gold Gloves, been an All-Star nine times, finished top-five in MVP voting twice, and has two World Series rings.
As I’m sure you know, Molina’s best attributes are the ones that cannot be quantified with numbers. Molina’s leadership and in-game knowledge doesn’t show up on his stat-sheet but is a key reason why he deserves the Hall of Fame.
The only current problem is that Molina is now drastically overpaid. Leading the league in innings caught for years has worn him down and in 2019, that was more evident than it’s ever been before.
In one of his worst offensive seasons, Molina batted .270 but only got on base at a .312 clip and barely hit for power. His sub-.400 slugging percentage represented a large drop from the last three years, but again, he was doing all this at the age of 36. From the catcher’s position, a ton of offense isn’t needed so I am not saying all this as a horrible indictment of Molina, it was just a change from what we’ve been seeing.
Molina’s current contract is up after this coming season and as Mark Saxon reports, an extension is likely coming.
The Cardinals are smart to keep around Yadi’s leadership and talent as long as possible, but at some point, the era has to end. The complicated part is that the Cardinals have had multiple catching prospects come up and be blocked by Molina. Last year, it was Carson Kelly who was shipped to Arizona in the Paul Goldschmidt trade. This year, it seems it’s going to be Andrew Knizner.
Knizner is going to be 25 by the time the 2020 season starts and has spent more than a season at AAA. He’s ready to go, but the Cardinals are going to keep Molina and Wieters around, leaving little room behind the plate for Knizner. If the Cardinals don’t trade Knizner, they are wasting talent and letting it rot away at AAA or on the bench.
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At some point, Molina has to pass the keys over.
That is my biggest question in how the perceived one or two-year extension that Molina is about to sign. When will Molina take a step back?
It’s not an easy question, but I think the years and money that Molina receives will tell a good story about how the Cardinals view Molina from now until his retirement.
Again, let me reiterate that I am all for Molina finishing his career in Cardinal Red. Molina deserves a statue outside of Busch and all the love, but at some point, riding Molina into the ground could sink the entire ship.
Dan Buffa put it best:
I’m all in to keep playing Yadi as long as he can put forth these numbers.
The only thing I would dread is that Molina, say in his age 39 season, still wants to be the everyday catcher but is unable to put up any of the above numbers and the team has to force him out of the lineup. I believe Molina has enough self-awareness and intelligence to know when it’s time for him to step back, but there is a world where the relationship between the Cardinals and Molina goes sour in the end.
Molina will definitely take a pay cut in his new contract as he is killing payroll with a $20M salary right now. He has earned that throughout his career, but moving forward, I would expect a two-year extension for about $15M with bonuses that could make it more than that. In all, Yadier Molina is a dying breed: the Hall of Famer who spends his whole career with one team. The city of St. Louis will love him forever for that.