Why the Cardinals don’t owe Yadier Molina a thing

For months, I’ve written that the St. Louis Cardinals need to do whatever is necessary to keep their longtime and sure-fire Hall of Fame catcher, Yadier Molina.

But sometimes, feelings change and a point of view can be adjusted due to unforeseen events. Or, you just get tired of the noise.

Fact: Molina can still be a very important asset to this team, even at 38 years of age. Just listen to Cardinals manager, Mike Shildt, tell The Athletic’s Mark Saxon this weekend at the Winter Meetings that he hasn’t thought about a 2021 season that doesn’t have Molina behind homeplate for the Birds on the Bat.

Fact: There’s a chance that Andrew Knizner, if given a real chance, could produce better at the plate and maybe not be too bad behind the plate for St. Louis.

The unforeseen circumstances here are the pandemic, of course, but there’s more to it. As Major League Baseball teams rebound from a year where zero fans were placed in stands and minor league circuits were discontinued, I have to hear about Molina whining about a bad offer.

Then, his loyal brother, Bengie Molina, told ESPN Radio that his brother wants to feel appreciated by the Cardinals.

Hey Bengie, the Cardinals have paid Molina a sum of $155 million dollars in his 16 year career. They have paid him at least $14 million a year over the past eight seasons, including $20 million annually over the past three seasons. For a guy who spits out hot takes about loyalty and the need to feel wanted, Molina has been paid pretty well over the past decade. More well than most people this year.

If the Cardinals wanted to pay Molina based on WAR alone, he’d probably get around $8-10 million over the past two seasons. Injuries have taken a shot at Molina’s durability recently, but then again, the guy is nearing 40 years old. Here’s the amount of accolades he has accumulated over the past three seasons: A Gold Glove award in 2018, his ninth.

Over the past three seasons, 2018-20, Molina’s slash line looks like this: .265/.312/.410. The catcher’s OPS+ is just 93 (league average is 100). There’s some power in there, but it’s not insurmountable. These are just the stats one will find on Baseball Reference. Let’s head over to Fangraphs real quick to check Molina’s temperature.

Steamer, a great projector of stats over at that esteemed site, has Molina producing a fWAR of 1.4 next year in 112 games caught. Molina’s BABIP, aka batting average on balls put in play, was .281 and .289 the past two seasons, respectively, so his hits aren’t being stolen by infield grifters out there. The walk rate is slightly down and the strikeout rate is slightly up. Molina’s hard hit percentage in 2018-19 was around 44%, which is solid for him. But Molina is trying to pull more pitches instead of driving them to right field, which is a sign of a declining hitter. Let’s face it, all nostalgia aside, Molina is declining both behind and standing at the plate.

So here’s what the Cardinals owe him: NOTHING. Yeah, nothing. If you stepped back and looked at what each side has received during their time together, the final result is even. The team has gotten a lot of good times and awards out of Molina’s time, but these are unprecedented times and ALL players get old and less useful. That’s Father Time and as many rounds as Molina still wins on its chief opponent, he isn’t owed anything by this organization. My good and talented friend, Daniel Shoptaw, talked about it over at Cards Conclave earlier this week.

They’ve given everything to him that a player could want. A spot in the starting lineup even when one of his hands is very injured. A spot in the lineup in each game of a doubleheader, in a month stuffed with doubleheaders. They move young players, so he can play every day. As much of a leader as he is, Molina sure won’t share the time or really show a younger catcher the way. Not if it inhabits his time and career. Tony La Russa, Mike Matheny, and Mike Shildt have all bowed to Molina in their tenures, trusting his stat-proof effect on the team.

Molina is a one of a kind talent, but he’s been treated like one. If you think St. Louis hasn’t given this man everything a professional athlete could ask for, look again. Look at the salary. Look at the revered status in this city. He’s got it for life, no matter where he spends his 2021 season.

He could take a few lessons from his longtime battery mate, Adam Wainwright. One could sit and make the argument that the pitcher is more valuable than the catcher for next year. I could easily make a case that Kolten Wong, who is currently jobless as well, is more valuable than Molina next year-but he was basically released last month.

Wainwright handles his offseason business like a pro, patiently waiting and allowing what he did in 2020 to write his check next year. You don’t see Waino’s brother going on a radio station telling the world that his bro isn’t being appreciated. The Cardinals worked closely with #50 on his past two contracts, doing what is right for both sides.

That’s how it should be done. Molina hasn’t been disrespected by the Cardinals once, not even this year. At some point, a player needs to understand what he was worth then and what he is worth now. A team must step back from legend and decipher what is right and wrong for their longtime player.

Let me ask you a question. Who performs better with 90% of the playing time next year: Knizner or Molina?

Most of the pitchers have worked with the younger Knizner, so there’s familiarity there. Instead of paying one guy $10-20 million per season, the Cardinals would be paying the rookie less than a million dollars. If you want to save money, the route is clear. But it’s complicated, like it continuously seems to be with Molina.

I love what he means to this city. It’s a rare thing in corporate America to have a player spend all his playing days under one set of lights inside a single thread. It’s something. But it’s a reality that doesn’t move in straight lines anymore. A player’s fate slices like a hammer.

For months, I wanted the team to sign “Yadi” for whatever it took. I believed in that. I believed in his impact.  But these days, call it COVID-19 soul tax or a different mood, I am starting to believe one side is sitting right and the other is out of line. Maybe I just see things differently these days.

If Yadier Molina thinks he is under-appreciated, he needs to look around. Look at all the hardship, closing businesses, crashing industries, and growing despair. The Cardinals have paid him his money. They have shown him appreciation. I still hope each side finds a way to work out a new contract.

But … the Cardinals don’t owe him a damn thing.


18 thoughts on “Why the Cardinals don’t owe Yadier Molina a thing

  1. If you would do your homework then yuh ou would know its not all about stats with Molina. He is trying to manage that ridiculous pitching lineup – that the Cardinals organization cant seem to get a grip on….not Schildt or Maddux.

  2. Yadi used to be my favorite player but now I’m like the author. Either take the money or move on. You are now showing your true colors. I have lost respect for you. Can you not live on $10,000,000? Grow up!

  3. Stop publishing baseball players salaries, it does nothing for the game , it is ju ssd t old women gossip , a’s nd nobody’s business…you would get fire if you revealed someone’s earnings . Nobody business , it contributes to escalating salaries. Capiech!!!

  4. “For a guy who spits out hot takes about loyalty and the need to feel wanted. . .”

    what did yadi say? you talking about Bengie? I’m confused

  5. Gigantic blunder re-upping Carpenter at those numbers which skewes this a bit given daily workload, but why would they not keep Brother Freese if they overpaid Carp who has been unwatchable for years. Molina does alot, he’s our guy, fond common ground and sign Waino and Yad and dump Carps’ salary.

  6. I will miss Bob Gibson, if not the greatest pitcher he is one of the greatest that ever pitched. He may be the greatest World Series pitcher, boy he was a great competitor.
    Gerard

    1. On Molina, I would love to see him resign with STL but I agree we own him nothing and he need to stop whining because he has been a great STL Cardinal and has been paid as one.

  7. No,the Cardinals may not owe Yadi a thing, but they owe the fans who want Yadi to stay and there’s a lot of them. If Yadi goes so do I. That’s how strongly I feel.

  8. Spot on article…I’m sick of athletes whining about being “disrespected” late in their career. Give me a break. Maybe he should have hustled out one or two of the 260+ double plays he’s hit in to. His stat line is average and he doesn’t deserve anywhere close to the kind of money he’s asking for. Maybe the Angels have some money laying around for him…

  9. I agree. Huge payments for PAST performances makes no sense. Here’s a wild idea….how about theses athletes nearing the end of their careers show some respect and LOYALTY to the fan base who supported them when things weren’t going so great. And how many millions does one man need to live a full happy life? Oh yes, I almost forgot the money grubbing soulless agents/lawyers. Ah well, therein lies the rub perhaps.

  10. Well it’s a good thing that you are a writer because you don’t know enough about team play or the little things that Molina has done for the Cardinals,
    their players, pitchers, and rookies to think about being a coach or professional ballplayer

  11. I am a Stl Cardinal since I saw first time Hall Fame Bob Gibson pitching (RIP) .
    Put when you mention that the team don’t owe nothing Catcher Molina it is very sorry of you because you writing things like he is nothing. There have been players that had good contract ( money ) and did not win a Ring and if I am mistaken the player that you are writing have 2 Ring . Dam the money ok it hurts when brain somehow forget this kind of very and very important theme .
    Well dam with the money ok.

  12. Was talking about this the other day. Waino took lesser money with incentives for games and innings pitched, wins, era, and batting and ended up making close to his regular salary. How do you structure incentives for a position player? I don’t think the skies the limit, but I think they need to come to an agreement. I do think that if they resign Yadi that Kninzer or whoever the backup or heir apparent is needs significant playing time.

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