Never before a free agent in his career, I can understand how it might be a bit of an interesting experience for 38-year-old catcher Yadier Molina. But the more we hear about the process, the more it all just feels like a dance that’ll wind up with him returning to the Cardinals.
“He wants to win, but he also wants to be appreciated. He’s finding out how valuable – that’s a big, big word – how valuable he could be for another team. When you are talking about a 38-year-old and they have 6-7 teams after them, that tells you how valuable he is. The bad thing for the Cardinals is he is finding out how valuable he is to other teams …. If the Cardinals are not the team willing to do everything and anything to bring him back, he’s not afraid.”
Given the previous reporting that indicated Molina’s camp found the Cardinals’ initial offer to retain him “ridiculous,” it’s clear that he’d like to feel a little more love than he’s been feeling. But, mostly, he wants to get paid.
Let me add that we’ve seen this posturing before from Molina’s camp, and it’s still very hard for me not to see it as them pushing the Cardinals to just get the dang thing done at the highest price possible. That is to say, I still don’t think Molina wants to leave the only team he’s known, and I also don’t think the Cardinals want to let him go. But if you want to get some more cash, then you really have to get out there into free agency and make it real.
Like I’ve said before, I’m sure there really are a number of teams out there that would love to bring in Molina as their back-up or part-time catcher, pairing perhaps with a younger guy and working with the pitching staff. Even at his age, Molina offers significant value in a lot of ways.
But the more that gets out there from his side that has this flavor, the more convinced I am that he simply wants to go back to the Cardinals – it’s just that he wants them to offer a reasonable two-year deal so he can say yes.
In case you missed our discussion of him feeling their first offer was “ridiculous”:
It’s difficult to say what level offer would be deemed ridiculous for Molina, who is probably going to be paid like a very good back-up – but what’s the market for that type in his financial environment? Historically, you might expect a guy like Molina to get two years and, say, $12-14 million? This year, maybe less? I don’t know, is that ridiculous? Did the Cardinals offer just one year at a very low salary? We know they are crying poverty at every turn.
Saxon writes that Molina is believed to be seeking at least one year at $10 million, plus an option for 2022. It’s not hard for me to imagine that the Cardinals did something like one year and $5 million with some incentives as a starting point.
But in a market without too many available catchers, and a guy like Molina who could really help your other catcher(s) and your pitching staff, to say nothing of his yeah-still-really-good game behind the plate, it just isn’t that hard for me to see some team at least meeting him at the two-year request. Some young up-and-coming team will see Molina as their David Ross, whom the Cubs signed before the 2015 season to a two-year, $5 million deal to be the back-up catcher on the field and something much more in the clubhouse.
And to turn that on its head, you wonder: how much would the Cardinals lose without Molina? We literally haven’t seen it in 17 years, so it’s pretty darn tough to say what the impact would be on their pitching staff and in their clubhouse. We can say whatever about Molina, but clearly, he’s important to the Cardinals’ success.
And all the while, we just watch this process play out, knowing that either the Cardinals pay Molina more than they wanted, or watch him leave for another organization. Hey, it’s win-win if you’re a Cubs fan!