Longtime St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said retirement could be a possibility if demands aren’t met.
Free-agent catcher Yadier Molina has been staunch in his desire to keep playing baseball, even if it isn’t for the St. Louis Cardinals. But in a recent interview with La Vida Baseball, Molina stated that he could retire if the right offer doesn’t come along.
“If God wants me to come back, then I’ll come back,” said Molina in the interview. “And if not, I will retire happy with my head held high.”
Whether Molina is being truthful about his retirement comments is anyone’s guess. Molina certainly has the funds to retire. According to Baseball Reference, Molina has been paid $154,998,500 over his 16-year career.
Molina could also be wary about joining another team after a decade and a half wearing the birds on the bat. It’s reasonable to think Molina wouldn’t want to deal with switching cities and teams for the first time in his career at an age many players have hung up their cleats unless he’s compensated well for the troubles.
Finally, it’s unclear what next season has in store regarding its start and duration. Obviously, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 baseball season was unique and taxing on players. One might understand why Molina wouldn’t want to go through it again.
But the more cynical fans might have another thought: Molina could be using this statement as leverage for teams to get a deal in place. Molina is still an above-average player at a coveted position, and this remark could signify to teams, especially the Cardinals, that he wants a deal done soon.
The market might not be as kind to Molina as he hopes, however. Former Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto also remains unsigned, and as Realmuto is far younger than Molina, he would likely command more attention from teams seeking backstops, leaving Molina as a second choice. Other notable catchers who were on the market this offseason have already been claimed, including James McCann and Victor Caratini.
One more possible reason Molina might decide to ride off into the sunset is if he is concerned about his legacy. Very few players in the modern game stay with one team their entire careers, and those who do are usually seen as icons, and fans tend to see players more fondly if they never left the team.
One only needs to look at Albert Pujols as an example of when this goes awry. When Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2012 season, many Cardinals fans were incensed, and while most feelings of bitterness eventually subsided, Pujols’ mediocre performance with the Angels has led to a statistical split that the change in teams magnifies.
Molina, meanwhile, has also lost some of his skills, albeit not as drastically as Pujols has. However, the fact that he remains with the Cardinals means the fans remember his prime years and don’t feel betrayed by a team change.
Being enshrined in Cooperstown is the dream of every major league player, and while Molina is likely to make the Hall of Fame, he doesn’t quite stack up to some of the other catchers inducted, such as Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra or Roy Campanella. Therefore, remaining with the Cardinals could be the boost Molina needs to get that possible first-ballot nomination.
If Molina does decide to retire a Cardinal before the 2021 season begins, he will be seen as one of the greatest Cardinals catchers, rivaling only Ted Simmons. His ability to limit stolen bases and work with pitchers was nearly unparalleled, and in the later stages of his career, runners would rarely even attempt to steal out of respect for his cannon arm. He made a successful transition from a defense-first catcher to one who could wield a solid piece of lumber, and his strikeout rate always stayed low.
There you go, Baseball Hall of Fame museum. I just wrote your Molina plaque for you.
If Molina retires in two years and spends that time with another team, Cardinals fans will still remember those qualities about him, but there will always be a tinge of sadness that he didn’t end his career where he started it.
Seeing Molina wear another team’s uniform is unthinkable to me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in preferring he retire than sign elsewhere, but no matter what he decides to do, his contributions to the Cardinals and the two World Series championships he helped bring to St. Louis will always be remembered and held in high regard.