April 02, 2017

#STLCards Yadier Molina IS a #Cardinal for (most of) his baseball life

Yadier Molina
Getting it done on his self-imposed deadline day, long-term catcher Yadier Molina, known baseball-wide for his defense, pitch framing and pitcher handling, has signed a new three-year contract with the team, per Great Red Satan. More details from the hometown paper of record.

(While you're here, Cards fans, feel free to hit me up on the two polls at right for your guess on regular season and postseason finish.)

Per initial guesses, it's $60 million for three years, which then leads to the question of: "Overpay?"

This would be more than the much younger Buster Posey gets and would also seem to partially undercut Mo's stance toward Albert Pujols several years ago, an even more iconic Cardinal than Molina.

And, 37 would be old for a catcher. ESPN noted in an earlier piece, on the age issue, that Johnny Bench was retired by that age, which would be what Molina would be at the end of a 2018-2020 contract. At the same time, it does note that Molina might age relatively slowly for a catcher, citing Ivan Rodriguez as an example. But even with Pudge, age 35 was the last year he had more than 500 PAs. Maybe the original Pudge, Carlton Fisk, is an even better comp for aging catchers. That said, Pudge 1.0 was more known for his bat than Yadi, as one reason for him to hang longer, and he played in the AL, which meant he could DH as well as playing non-catcher field spots. (Fisk broke the 4-WAR mark in a post-40 season.)

I think it's a likely overpay, and will be the team's second this season after Dexter Fowler. (Among other things, I would have given him EITHER five years OR the guaranteed no-trade but not both. And, I strongly believe last year was a career year for him, and given that he was signed in part for his D, 30-plus CFs are naturally on the downslope.)

On the other hand, per that ESPN link at top, Molina arguably was as much the team's leader as Phat Albert, before Pujols left, and is even more so now. How much do you pay for leadership? Ken Rosenthal agrees on that angle. Plus, there's a good possibility that Yadi delivers 2.5 WAR/ year, which on statistical value alone would make the contract a wash.

At the same time, this means Carson Kelly takes a back seat for three more years in addition to this one, unless Mike Matheny starts giving Molina a few more days off, period, and a few days at either first or third base. That's actually not a bad idea, and might come more into play, at third, with the presumed disappearance of Jhonny Peralta after this year. I think Molina has the first-step reflex speed to play a few games a year at third.

I had thought maybe Mo could front-end it, like Peralta's, and make the third year a player option, and tack on a fourth team-option year to sweeten it more? Yes, the team starts a new TV contract next year, but ... maybe they want to move Molina at some point?

Mike Leake may turn out to be another example of an overpay (I think it likely) even as the Cardinals have to decide whether to keep Lance Lynn from leaving in free agency after this year.

So, what's Jonathan Lucroy's ask a year from now? 5/$125?

I do agree with this blogger that Molina is not a likely Hall of Famer.

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