Bird Banter: Yadi’s Extension

Back in the old days, Rob Neyer and Rany Jazayerli used to have a back-and-forth correspondence on the Royals.  (Here’s the last one of them I could find.)  Everyone’s favorite Twitterer StlCardsCards came to me and thought it might be worth trying that out with a few of our Twitter friends.  I think it went well enough we may do this occasionally as topics merit.  For now, more talk about Yadi’s contract.

C70: This morning, I put up an article about Yadier Molina’s desire (apparently) for some sort of contrat extension.  Is that a good idea, what should it look like, and will Yadi be a lifetime Cardinal?

STLCC: Well first of all, just to be clear, I don’t think you writing is ever a good idea.

As far as Yadi goes, I love the guy, but he’s a catcher. Last year was amazing partially because it was unexpected. Ultimately it’s not like we saw peak Yadi. We saw improved decline stage Yadi. And that’s just on offense, on defense according to Fangraphs his Def (Defense and positional adjustment above average) was the lowest of his career. He’s declining. Clearly declining. As he should be. A catcher with his wear and tear doesn’t usually make is this long. He’s been amazing and he’s still amazing for his age and use. But looking forward, the end is near. The Cardinals have the option of keeping him through 2018. It’s hard to imagine a 2019 Yadi contributing much to a winning team. It’s harder to imagine Mo keeping him.

So, No, not really, unless he is to take a deal with the understanding of how he is likely going to decline – which people who are asking for extensions aren’t about to do. I imagine he won’t be a lifetime Cardinal. Someone is going to offer Yadi some money to be around their catching and pitching staff.

I’m stopping this now because I have several billion other thoughts and that’s not really the point of this thing.

C70: I do wonder how much the thumb injury played into last year’s defense.  I mean, I know he’s declining, of course, but will he “bounce back” a little bit this year with a fully healthy (as much as a catcher can have) hand?  I don’t know.

I still think Yadi’s value is more to the Cardinals than anywhere else.  While I’m sure he has a rep around the league, it’d take some time for him to ingrain himself into another staff, I would think.

And your opinion of my writing is pretty much the universal one.

johnrabe: All things being equal, I think all of us would want Yadier Molina to finish his career as a Cardinal. We also know that John Mozeliak is possibly the least sentimental person in the history of baseball. Maybe of the world, even. I imagine Mo coming to one of his kids after Junior gets a B-minus in accounting at college and saying, “After carefully considering it, we’ve decided to terminate the college funding and reallocate our resources toward a more fruitful prospect for our family. However, I know my family joins me in thanking Junior for his years with the Mozeliak family, and we wish him nothing but the best down the line.” So the real question will be output. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot imagine Mo shelling out an eight-figure contract for a 36-year-old catcher, which is what Yadi will be when the option year ends. Even if Yadi is able to defy the odds and continue the offensive ascendancy that began in the middle of this year, it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals being willing to pay more than several other teams might for his vaunted “intangibles.” I don’t like to imagine it, but I see this one ending badly all the way around. But I’m an optimist that way, as everyone knows….

KeeneMLB: I cannot fathom Mo making overtures toward an extension for Yadi. Probably the only thing that stops me from saying “absolutely not” is that the replacement has not been fully solidified. Such a replacement should probably have been worked on sometime during the second term of the George W Bush administration, but wasn’t. Then there’s Mike Matheny, who will not play any backup option until Yadi is in a wheelchair, and even then he may elect to play him injured (see Grichuk, Randal). As usual, Mo will have to force Mike’s hand.

C70: The Mike Matheny factor definitely needs to be taken into account.  If he’s not going to stay strong on any sort of plan, then it’s not going to work.  And I’m sure it’d be tough to watch Kelly struggle with Yadi on the bench, but that’s one of those times the “leader of men” trait should encourage Yadi to be the coach and mentor he can be.

STLCC: Yadi’s defense is still a positive, don’t get me wrong, and it COULD improve, but I personally think it would be strange to see that his thumb healed enough that his hitting bounced back while his defense got worse. FWIW, Steamer says his defense and offense will go in opposite directions this year. The defense improves to normal Yadi levels, the offense becomes normal 2009 Yadi levels.

If it’s me, around the all-star break if Yadier hasn’t become Humpty Dumpty I pick up the option as a show of good faith, and I negotiate adding on an additional option year with the explanation that we’ll keep playing it like that. But I’m a sentimental bastard who knows that by the end of Yadi’s time I know I’m going to have a year + of no production from that money. This is Mo. He let Holliday walk, and then let Holliday sign a cheap, fair market deal with the Yankees. As long as Mo’s around you can expect Yadi to retire elsewhere. It’s not what I would do, but it’s probably not a bad thing.

I do think about, and Rabe will back me up, watching Yadi play in Florida. The stadium goes crazy for him. There are more Peurto Rico WBC jerseys than there are Marlins jerseys. He’s adored in St. Louis, of course, but it’s worth remembering he is a financial plus far beyond Cardinal Nation. The sentimental part of me hopes that Mo keeps that in mind.

Also, the Matheny factor always sucks. I predict Yadi to set his personal best for innings caught this year sometime in early June. Frankly we will someday be questioning how much Yadi may have been able to contribute in his latter years if not for his early 30s overuse.

johnrabe: Not to detour the discussion down a well-worn alley, but this talk of the Matheny Factor has me steaming again.

Undoubtedly, managers and general managers across baseball end up at loggerheads some of the time. (And that’s not to be confused with “Lagerheads,” the spring training bar I will open somewhere near Tony La Russa and make a mint.) But can anyone point me to a recent example where a manager-in-good-standing has more often frustrated the plans of his general manager? No matter what backup the Cardinals use for Yadi, he will never play until Matheny gets Yadi hurt. Sometimes that’s in July or August, and sometimes it’s not at all (like this past season), which means that he’ll catch every inning of every game.

Mo had to trade Allen Craig because of abuse at Matheny’s hands. He’s clearly made known his preference for Kolten Wong at second base, only to have Matheny continually hide Kolten on the bench somewhere behind Pete Kozma’s old sneakers. Even if Mo suddenly got sentimental and decided to offer Yadi a few years’ extension, he would immediately have to retract it because he knows Matheny would guarantee that those extra years would amount to some sort of gross pile of rubble, neck tattoos, and detached thumbs.

And yes, I turned this into a Matheny rant in my second email. Everyone go collect your pool money from Daniel.

STLCC: I told you guys we shouldn’t include Rabe in this.

C70: It is a rare discussion that doesn’t return to Matheny. Which is fair, I guess, since the manager of any team is important.

I do think there are some monetary considerations, including parading Yadi as an all time Cardinal, that should be factored in. Molina jerseys may sell forever, but more so if he never has another team.

STLCC: Considering the Pujols situation, I’m sure that’ll raise what Mo offers by about 10K/yr.

There’s not a Cardinal fan on the planet, including Mo, that doesn’t want to see Yadi retire as a Cardinal. Mo would just prefer he retire around 2018, and making the minimum. I may end up hating him for that, but I can’t say as though I blame him. And I’ll probably be happier because of it.

Thoughts and comments?  Put them below or yell at any of these folks on Twitter!

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  • Cariocacardinal

    You act as the Cardinals have all the leverage in 2018 and Yadi has none. It is a mutual option. It is not just a question of Mo excercising the option as you imply. If Yadi really wants an extension he can walk after this year and the team can do nothing about it.

    • Cardinal70

      That’s an excellent point I didn’t even consider. I just assumed it was a team option and didn’t think to check if it might not be. You are right, if Yadi wants to force the issue, he can. Thanks for that!

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