How Long Will Extra $210 Million Stay In The Bank?

Whether you were devastated, relieved, or somewhere in between when Albert Pujols rejected a reported $210 million, 10-year contract offer from team president, Bill Dewitt, and GM John Mozeliak, the fact remains that the departure of the St. Louis Cardinals’ long-time first basement gives the front office a lot more payroll flexibility moving forward.

Photo Courtesy of/Copyright Erika Lynn

Since December 8th, the day news broke that Pujols was taking his talents to SoCal, the Cardinals have made a number of moves: first re-signing middle infielders Skip Schumaker and Rafael Furcal, then adding an impact bat in Carlos Beltran and a veteran bullpen arm in J.C. Romero. The moves are nothing to scoff at, and the Cardinals likely aren’t done adding pieces to an already loaded World Championship roster for the 2012 season.

Thus far, the Cardinals have committed roughly $45 million to those four players over the next two seasons, and two of the four were carryovers from last year’s squad. The “new money” so to speak for Beltran and Romero will only cost the team about $27 million.

Obviously, the Cardinals weren’t going to blow the Pujols savings all at once, and frankly there’s not a lot of need to at this point. The team, at least for 2012, is pretty well set in most areas. The outfield features Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Carlos Beltran. Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Jaime Garcia will anchor the starting rotation. At the corner infield positions you have Lance Berkman and David Freese, and up the middle you have Rafael Furcal and likely a platoon between Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, and Tyler Greene. Could the team use some more arms in the bullpen? Sure. But keep in mind all the young, promising arms that will be returning: Eduardo Sanchez, Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Jason Motte, and Marc Rzepczynski just to name a few.

But that doesn’t mean some fans wouldn’t like the team to start locking-in some of that current talent on the roster for the long haul, and there are two big names at the top of the list.

Yadier Molina
Molina has been a beloved member of the St. Louis Cardinals since his game-winning home run in Game 7 of the NLCS back in 2006. The Gold Glover has made a name for himself with his handiwork behind the plate, gunning out would-be base stealers and picking-off other base runners in critical situations. But Molina isn’t just a threat behind the plate, he had a career year in the batter’s box as well, hitting .305 with 14 HRs and 65 RBIs in 2011. He’ll be making $7 million dollars in 2012, the final year of his contract. Translation: With his numbers on the rise, some team out there will likely be willing to throw at least 4 years, $40 million at Molina next winter if St. Louis doesn’t lock him up.

David Freese
The World Series MVP made a whopping $416 thousand (yes, thousand) last season, and is due for a significant pay-raise. Like Molina, Freese has a strong connection with the Cardinals fan base… not only for his World Series heroics, but because he’s one of them. Freese grew up in the St. Louis area, and his redemption story has captured the hearts of Cardinals fans everywhere. His free agency clock is also ticking, so it’ll be interesting to see how the front office handles his contract talks as well.

The prospects of keeping Freese on the team long-term look good. As we just discussed, he’s a native St. Louisan, and he has several good friends on the team, including Matt Holliday, whose contract is good through the 2016 season. With Freese’s injury problems in the past, it’s unlikely that he’d command more than 6-8 million per season unless he just goes off in 2012, making him a pretty affordable investment for the Cardinals’ Organization.

So what about Molina? Well, John Mozeliak says the team wants to re-sign him, and Molina reportedly wants to stay a Cardinal, so things should work out great, right?

Where have I heard that story before?

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