The St. Louis Cardinals don’t do hometown discounts

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Adam Wainwright #50 celebrates with Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals after they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6 to 1 in Game Five of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 9, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Adam Wainwright #50 celebrates with Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals after they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6 to 1 in Game Five of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 9, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Yadier Molina’s past contracts

For Molina, let’s start with his 2013-’17 contract, when he really started to have a chance at the big money.  He and the Cardinals actually agreed to that five-year extension before the 2012 season began.  It was a relatively simple $75M deal, averaging $15M per year.

Given that Molina was 29 when he signed the deal and 30 when it started, it was a reasonable contract for both sides.  Molina had just come off a 2011 season in which he set career highs in batting average (.305) and home runs (14) while making his third All-Star team and earning his fourth Gold Glove.  Keeping in mind contract values at the time, this was not a bargain by any means.  St. Louis was paying full freight for one of the best catchers in the game.

Things get a bit wonky when we look at the three-year, $60 million contract that St. Louis gave Molina heading into 2018.  Sure, he was continuing to play at an All-Star level, but he was going to be a 35-year-old catcher whose body had endured nearly 1750 major league games of wear and tear, and his bat was past its peak.  An open-market deal of $45M-$50M most likely would have been what awaited him had the Cardinals not brought him back. This pact seems to have included a single-team/franchise-legend bonus more than a discount.

For 2021, Molina signed late, having significant discussions with others team into February before inking a one-year, $9M deal.  The pandemic-ravaged 60-game 2020 season made it difficult to properly evaluate players, but his .262/.303/.359 triple-slash numbers, four homers and 16 RBI project out to similar numbers to what he had posted the previous season.  Again, this was a justifiable dollar value.

Molina is playing this year on a one-year, $10M deal.  This contract was agreed to late last season as he was wrapping up a campaign in which he hit .252/.297/.370 with 11 home runs and 66 RBI.  While that offensive output is below the MLB average, it’s acceptable for a catcher.  And of course, Molina’s defense, pitcher-management, and game-calling skills elevate him above just his hitting stats.  Considering Molina is 39 years old and ceding some playing time to Andrew Knizner this year, that amount of money seems like a reasonable deal.

Looking at this decade of deals, it’s difficult to decipher and discounts delivered to the Cardinals.  Yadi is a potential Hall of Famer and a St. Louis icon, and he’s been paid accordingly.

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