April 01, 2017

Yadi Molina: A #Cardinals icon for life or not?

Yadier Molina
Yadier Molina, iconic St. Louis Cardinals catcher for a decade, may, or may not, be with the team past 2017.

This year is the last guaranteed year of his contract. He has a team mutual option for 2018.

Update, April 2: The Cardinals and Molina inked a deal.

He and GM John Mozeliak have been discussing a new deal — and per a Molina-imposed deadline, to avoid regular-season distraction, they have until Sunday to get it done.

Both the Post-Dispatch and ESPN indicate progress has been made. ESPN rumors it's for three years at more than $18.5 per. (The PD and Fox say it could top $60M, or $20 per, with incentives.) At the same time, Red Satan notes that 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.

So, should Redbird fans have hope? Good question. Per the screengrab at right, a highly nonscientific poll here indicated that, a month ago, a majority of respondents did NOT expect Yadi to be wearing his birds on bats after 2018. (I was one of the "no" voters.)

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

The 2018 option is a mutual one, not a team one; Molina's indicated he plans to opt out. Unless he has a bad injury that would change his mind, that 2018 vote, even, might be optimistic.

That said, which way does that hope cut? Which way should it cut?

ESPN also notes, in its contract notes, 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 notes 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.)

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?

The Cards do have a new TV contract that starts in 2018, but, an overpay is still an overpay, if that's what it is. Mike Leake may turn out to be another example even as the Cardinals have to decide whether to keep Lance Lynn from leaving in free agency after this year.

Sidebar: If the Cards do pay up, what's Jonathan Lucroy's ask a year from now? 5/$125?

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