On Friday night, as the Memphis Redbirds hosted their parent club in the “Battle of the Birds”, Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Cardinals were nearing an extension with franchise cornerstone Yadier Molina. Soon after the tweet was sent out, Molina homered in the penultimate exhibition game of the Spring.
To be clear, Rosenthal is reporting that they are “finalizing” a deal. Nothing has been signed, and it remains possible that Molina walks after this year.
If Rosenthal’s reporting is accurate, however, the deal would be a win for both parties. The Cardinals would secure the face of the franchise, a “Legacy Player”, in the words of Bill DeWitt III. The deal’s AAV of 18.3 million would make Molina the second highest paid catcher in baseball, only bested by Buster Posey.
The five highest paid catchers now are:
Buster Posey: $19.8 million
Yadier Molina: $18.3 million
Brian McCann: $17 million
Russel Martin: $16.4 million
Miguel Montero: $12 million
I don’t know about you, but I think Yadi will be more valuable in 2019 than Brian McCann is right now.
Our own Zach Gifford tried to quantify Molina’s value, and concluded he’s saved the Cards between 53 and 100 runs per year due to his ability to call a game. While it’s possible his offensive skills will erode severely over the life of his new contract, Yadi could still play a pivotal role in developing young pitchers Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Sandy Alcantara. We’ve already seen the impact he’s had on Carlos Martinez over the last two seasons.
What about Carson Kelly?
The converted third baseman is the elephant in the room when it comes to the Molina extension. If Molina indeed retires a Cardinal, he will finish as one of the top five players in the history of the franchise.
The Cardinals were in a tough spot regarding Kelly. If they let Molina walk, Kelly could end up being rushed into a starting role. Or, if Molina continues to start 130+ games a year, Kelly’s development could stagnate.
The Cardinals probably made the right call on this one. Molina is the seminal player in one of the greatest eras in the history of a very proud franchise. Hopefully, Molina can tutor Kelly much the same way Matheny tutored him.
Regardless, retiring a Cardinals will cement his place on the Cardinals Mount Rushmore.
Thanks for reading!