Somehow, Molina returned.
A couple things felt inevitable upon Yadier Molina’s retirement last year: (1) the St. Louis Cardinals may have some hiccups on the pitching side as they transitioned to a new starting catcher for the first time in two decades, and (2) eventually, Molina would find his way back into baseball.
The first one was easy enough to predict in the abstract, because, for as much as we Cubs fans liked to rip on Yadi, it was crystal clear that he was doing something very well behind the plate and between games. He made his pitchers better. I know some don’t like to admit that kind of fluffy, not-quite-quantifiable thing, least of all when it is complimentary of the Cardinals, but it’s just true. That said, I did not anticipate the gravity of fall-off from Molina to Willson Contreras.
The second one was also pretty easy to predict, because Molina and his family are just so intertwined with baseball, and have been for so long, that it seemed a lock that Yadier would stay involved in the game in some way after a little time to rest and reset.
Combine those two things and you have this:
“The Cardinals have had conversations with Yadier Molina about joining the major-league coaching staff next season and both parties expressed interest, according to multiple league sources. It’s unclear what role Molina would have, but if he does join the staff it’s believed he will have an everyday position ….
Bringing Molina onto the staff would provide major-league player experience, a trait that most of last year’s staff lacked. Molina would surely boost the pitching staff and would also (presumably) work extensively with Willson Contreras behind the plate. He would also serve as an enticing reason for free-agent starting pitchers to consider signing with St. Louis.”
We’ve talked about this a lot in related contexts, but having Molina on staff wouldn’t quite be the same thing as having him on the roster – there’s just something different about how players work with and relate to a coach, rather than a fellow player. That said, the guy has a wealth of knowledge and experience and gravitas, so I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be able to help.
Longer term, though, it’ll create a fascinating dynamic if he *IS* successful, since he has done a little managing internationally, and has expressed an interest in managing at some point in the future. Would Cardinals manager Oli Marmol have to be looking over his shoulder at every turn, wondering if Molina is going to take his job? That might make for some fun drama from afar for us to follow …
Anyway, I think the real message here is that the Cardinals know what they were doing on the run-prevention side was not working in 2023, so they are trying to scramble to make it work again. Bringing back Molina might help, but the real needs are to have more talent on the pitching staff, and to have a catching setup that actually helps those pitchers succeed. I’m not sure Contreras – whose bat is awesome, let’s be clear – is ever going to be that guy. We said that BEFORE the Cardinals signed him, because we had seen it for years. Is having Molina there as a coach going to fundamentally change that? My guess is we’re going to find out.