According to Marty Riveria at ESPN, Molina says that without this coronavirus stoppage, he was “50/50” that he’d retire at the end of the year. (Personally, I wouldn’t think the odds were that high that he’d hang them up, but I’m not going to argue with the man.) Now that he’s going to have this gap with either no baseball or really strange baseball, he feels he’ll have unfinished business and really wants to come back for a couple more years.
Here’s the real kicker: it doesn’t have to be with the Cardinals.
After saying previously that if the Cards didn’t want to pay him, he’d retire, Molina is backing off of that. (He also said a couple of years ago he’d definitely retire at the end of his contract, but was looking for an extension even before this whole virus mess started. Things change.) He’d rather play in St. Louis, but if they don’t want to pay him, he’s open to going into free agency.
When you think about this, though, I’m not sure that that free agent market is the panacea Molina might think it is. For one, there’s no other team out there that is going to cater to his playing time like St. Louis will. You think you can go to LA or San Diego or Boston and play 135-140 games? I’d be pretty surprised. The only teams that might be open to that sort of arrangement are probably going to be the ones that aren’t going to be contending in 2021 or 2022. I think we all know about Molina’s drive and desire to win, so I can’t think that he’d head to someplace like Pittsburgh just because they’ll pay him and guarantee the playing time.
For another thing, as much as we love Yadi, he’s not exactly the cream of the crop at the position anymore. He’s been worth less than 2 bWAR in each of the last three seasons. His OPS+ last year was 85 and hasn’t been more than 103 since 2016, which was a bit of an outlier of the last half-decade anyway. The defense is still mainly there, but we’ve seen more balls get past him, less framing, a few more runners succeeding. He’s not won a Fielding Bible Award since 2013. We’ll see what 2020 brings, if there are games, but you have to figure that no matter what, people are going to be very hesitant to throw very much money at a 38 year old catcher. The only place that the intangibles might get him some extra money is, of course, St. Louis.
We should enjoy the wild Yadier Molina speculation now before he signs some boring one-year, $6 million extension for 2021
— St. Louis Bullpen (@STLbullpen) April 29, 2020
This is probably what it is going to come down to. Yadi’s not going to make $20 million a year anywhere he goes and if he goes to free agency with that expectation, he’s going to be terribly disappointed. I expect that the Cards and Molina will come up with something, though it won’t be until this winter so they can see what he looks like in this abbreviated season (should it happen) so they can value accordingly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him and Adam Wainwright both get a contract for 2021 (maybe Yadi’s can have some incentives in it as well) and give them a chance to go out together and have another year in front of the Cardinal faithful.
Of course, Yadi probably better not overplay his hand, not with Andrew Knizner basically ready and Ivan Herrera coming up. This is the front office that survived Albert Pujols leaving, so they may take this opportunity to move on if he gets too adamant about things. Hopefully we’ll see Yadi retire as a Cardinal, whenever it may be, but hopefully he realizes as well that the transition to the future is going to happen with or without him.