Yadier Molina and the St. Louis Cardinals announced on Thursday that they’d reached an agreement to extend the two-time World Series Champion, three-time All Star, and winner of four consecutive (and counting) National League Gold Glove awards. Oh, and it’s the second-richest contract for a catcher (Mauer, MIN) in baseball history. Or any history for that matter, I suppose. Molina will be the backstop for St. Louis from 2013-2017, and the deal includes a mutual option for 2018, when Molina will turn 36, which could make the deal worth $88MM in total guaranteed money over 6 years.
But, was it a good signing?
Like most signings, we may not know the answer to that until 2016 or 2017. I can tell you this much, though: the list of people who like this deal include John Mozeliak & Bill DeWitt. Obviously, Yadi Molina likes it, and I imagine Brian McCann and Buster Posey were wearing pretty big smiles when they heard the news too. For what it’s worth, you can add me to the list–I like this deal, and I like it a lot. (Side note: I’m betting the days of Lincecum, Cain & Posey playing together in San Fransisco are numbered.)
$15MM is a lot of money for a catcher, there’s no denying it. The difficult thing about quantifying that, as Mozeliak pointed out, is that this is not an offense-driven dollar figure. For all the talk about intangibles, leadership, and clubhouse presence that a guy like Yadi brings to the team, there’s no column on his baseball-reference page for those type of things. Sure, you can count his pickoffs, or compare his caught stealing rate to other catchers his age, but there are no metrics for the way catchers handle a pitching staff, or in Yadi’s case, handing down knowledge collected through Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan, Chris Carpenter and others to young pitchers like Shelby Miller, and Carlos Martinez.
It’s difficult to compare apples like Johnny Bench to Oranges like Yadi Molina. But know this: His compensation was not based on his offensive production. Though it was a factor, his defense was the primary driving force behind the numbers in this contract, and anyone who ignores, overlooks, or tries to downplay that is making a mistake.
When you ask yourself what the Cardinals’ realisitic, legitimate alternative options were, had they not locked Yadi up long-term, you don’t find much to feel good about. You can talk about Tony Cruz & Bryan Anderson all you want, but they’re both a far cry from bringing what Molina can to the table. It was imperative that the Cardinals spend money for a catcher, and in my opinion, far better to spend what they did and get what they got, than the alternatives the organization faced. To put so much on the shoulders of younger guys in the organization, or pay McCann or Ianetta free agency money primarily for offensive-production, when that’s clearly not a deficiency on this team, would’ve been mistakes in my mind.
Not to mention, whose shirsey are you going sell if you lose Pujols AND Molina to free agency within a year of each other? There’s a lot of revenue generated there, folks, don’t kid yourselves.
The organization has not stashed the supposed “truckloads of money that they were going to pay Pujols”. Berkman, Beltran and Molina will attest to that. What’s more, I believe the Cardinals have been smart with these deals, and not gone long-term with guys that they shouldn’t have. Remember, Beltran (and his new agent, Dan Lozano) originally sought a three-year deal. Consider that now it’s only Holliday & Molina that are signed through 2017, and that Garcia just signed a deal last year. Add to that the facts that Waino has two years to go, as does Carpenter, and that Lohse & Westbrook’s salary is coming off the books this year, and it puts the organization in pretty good shape, financially. Also, they’re fresh off a World Series Championship, which is good for the bottom line to say the least, and that many of the other pieces to the puzzle are arbitration eligible, with a little ways to go before entering free agency, and the financial picture improves even further.
Jason Motte is scheduled to become a free agent in 2015, a year before Mitchell Boggs and David Freese, and those are the young guys who are closest to free agency. Mo has said said, as recently as last season, that he’s not seen the farm system this healthy since he joined the organization…which was in 1995. 1995. This Yadi deal is just one piece to a very good-looking puzzle for the long-term success of this Cardinals franchise, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!