Return of the Other King

What do the Cardinals owe the legends?  Apparently about $17 million.

Last night, the inevitable became official and Yadier Molina will be back for his 18th season wearing the birds on the bat.  After an offseason of dancing around, Instagram trolling, and searching the market, Molina comes home on a one year deal for $9 million.

The return of Molina has been pretty much a fait accompli since the return of Adam Wainwright and the trade for Nolan Arenado, as the club was mainly waiting for the Caribbean Series to end before getting him to sign on the dotted line.  So the return, while joyous, isn’t that interesting.  What I do find interesting is that it is simply a one year deal.  There were rumors early on that Yadi was looking for a two year pact.  I remember hearing something, not sure if it was from him or from people speaking for him, that the COVID shutdown meant that he felt he had two more years in him at least.  There was talk even late last week that this deal might be a one year deal with an option (perhaps mutual) for 2022.  Instead, it’s just a one time thing.

As my Musial cohost Allen Medlock said to me, this means we get to do this all again next year most likely.  That’s true–I would be very surprised to see Molina decide to hang them up before the season ends unless something very untoward happens.  I think it is interesting, though, that this may be the first time in a long while that the Cardinals have had the upper hand when negotiating with Molina.  I believe they went into this offseason fully prepared to walk away and Yadi was unable to pressure them into a longer contract.

Does that really mean anything?  I don’t know.  It might mean that the Cardinals are going to be more open to Molina playing a lesser amount of games this year.  I know he’ll still get the bulk of them, but with Andrew Knizner sitting on the bench, I do wonder if they’ll maybe try to ease Yadi into the 120-130 range.  Molina might not be excited about that, but after getting out there on the open market and (apparently) not getting the offers that he expected, he might not feel like he’s got a lot of choice.

After all, at the end of the next season Molina will be a year older, getting ready for his Age 39 season (though he’ll be closer to 40 by time Opening Day comes around).  You have to think that any team that had interest this year might next year, but that interest is going to be lessened given another year on the calendar.  Now, if the Cardinals do ease his workload, he could market himself as fresher, but no matter what he does, he’s probably signing a one year deal.  If you are going to sign a one year deal at the end of your career, do you really want to uproot yourself from the only team you’ve ever known.

Throw into that mix the fact that the CBA expires and the free agent market might be pretty icy until all that works out and I can’t see that Molina is going to go anywhere next year, even if we stretch the signing out so he can play winter ball.  Of course, he played winter ball this year in part because he only got 42 games during the season.  Next year, even if they ease him back to 120, he might not want to add to his workload with that, which may let the Cardinals sign him a little earlier.

All that is for later, though.  It’s good to have Wainwright and Molina back in the fold, with hopefully fans returning in full force by the end of the season to give them a hero’s farewell in case one or both aren’t on the 2022 club.  Molina’s return makes the team better, given his experience and work with the pitching staff.  I don’t know who would have the better bat should Knizner play as many games, but overall, especially for the push this team seems to want to make this season, having a legend behind the plate is a good thing.

Welcome back, Yadi!

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NL Central Standings

TeamWLPct.GB
Brewers9262.597 -
Cardinals8569.5527.0
Reds7975.51313.0
Cubs6787.43525.0
Pirates5796.37334.5

Last updated: 09/25/2021

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