St. Louis Cardinals: Evaluating Yadier Molina’s free-agent market

With catcher Kurt Suzuki signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels, and free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto looking increasingly likely to return to the Philadelphia Phillies, the market for Yadier Molina is coming into focus.

Earlier this offseason, Molina revealed that the New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Angels had expressed interest in signing him. But the Mets have signed James McCann to a four-year, $40.6 million deal and the Padres acquired Victor Caratini in a deal with the Chicago Cubs.

It leaves the Yankees and perhaps the Washington Nationals as possibilities for Molina, while a return to the St. Louis Cardinals looms as a possibility. The 38-year-old is prioritizing playing for a winner as he looks to win another World Series and it is no secret that he is looking for a multi-year deal in free agency. The Yankees offer a clear chance to win in 2021 and the Nationals are only a year removed from winning it all.

At one point this winter, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch listed the Yankees as “the clearest and most present threat to the Cardinals re-signing Molina.” The Yankees are seeking a catcher after Gary Sanchez struggled defensively and had an alarmingly high strikeout rate. Molina, of course, is one of the best defensive catchers in recent baseball history and would be a significant upgrade for the team as they look to compete after signing D.J. LeMahieu and Corey Kluber last week.

But the Cardinals remain the favorite to sign Molina, despite the outside interest and recent public threats of retirement. It would be a massive upset if he does not return to St. Louis, given his historical impact on the franchise and their clear need for a catcher. The team’s outside options to acquire a capable replacement for Molina have dwindled and both sides have indicated a strong mutual interest in getting something finalized.

So, while it has not happened yet, and likely will not happen until Realmuto comes off the board, the most likely scenario remains that Molina will return to St. Louis. The lack of options, and clear desire from both sides to get it done, will only help their chances.