St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina in a different uniform? It’s possible
The St. Louis Cardinals have had Yadier Molina at catcher for more than the past decade. Even though the team was discussing an extension, it may not happen. If it doesn’t, he may have changed his mind about his plans past 2020.
Right now, the 2021 St. Louis Cardinals would field a team without Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina. Both players are free agents at the end of the year and there is a possibility that they could both be told the team won’t resign them.
Things like these are always difficult. Wainwright and Molina have both been stalemates of the Cardinals and are engrained in the culture and history of the past 20 years. Waino is near the end of his road, but Molina has continually repeated that he wants to stay with the Cardinals for two more years.
Both players were productive in 2019, but with Molina specifically, the Cardinals have already shifted longterm plans around him.
After the 2017 season, the Cardinals gave up on top catching prospect, Carson Kelly, and traded him to Arizona. It was the right move as Kelly was 23 and there was no clear path forward for him to play.
Now, the Cardinals are facing the same situation with Andrew Knizner. While he’s a lesser prospect than Kelly, Knziner has already spent more than a full season at AAA. He’s 25 years old, and the team can’t find at-bats for him. Molina doesn’t want to give up his hold on the catcher position, but continuing to let Knizner rot at AAA will ruin his development.
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This winter, I was disappointed the Cardinals didn’t move Knizner for talent, but with Yadier Molina, the team expressed willingness to sign Molina for another two years. Talks were presumably going on during spring, but nothing ever officially got done. Molina, at the time, said that he would play the next two years and if the team didn’t want him back, he’d retire.
In a story from Marly Rivera of ESPN.com, Molina was interviewed over the phone. Because of the pandemic, Molina seems to have changed his tune. In the interview, he said, “Obviously, St. Louis is my first option. But if they don’t sign me, then I’m willing to go into free agency. This situation has changed my mentality and all I want to do is play.”
Woah now, that’s different than what he has been saying.
On playing just a shortened season in 2020, Molina continued on saying, “I think it will feel like unfinished business.” This makes sense from Molina’s point of view, it’s just surprising that he would change his way of thinking so quickly.
On the Cardinals end, I don’t believe there is a chance that they would let Molina walk. Molina said that he is “confident that St. Louis and my agent Melvin Román will come to an agreement,” but that is not a sure thing.
Rosters are frozen right now so no plan can be made official, but there is a difference with Molina and what he will be making in the next two years and what happened with Albert Pujols. With Pujols, many people thought there was no way that the team would let him walk. In hindsight, it is good that they did. With Molina, there will be a point that the Cardinals wouldn’t pay him, but the deal won’t be anything that will anchor payroll for years.
This could end up being like a Brady-to-Tampa situation, but I doubt it gets there. When you have a player like Molina, you keep him around. Unless Molina is demanding a huge amount of money, I’d expect him back in 2021. Nobody wants to see him in a different uniform, I think that includes the Cardinals too.