Is it ironic that the new St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is a former big league catcher, and that at this very moment the St. Louis Cardinals are in negotiations with four time Gold Glove Award winner and catcher Yadier Molina? It’s safe to say that maybe Matheny understands the value to a solid catcher, who on most teams is a leader in more ways than one. A good catcher not only blocks balls in the dirt, aligns the defense, settles the pitcher down, visits the mound to break tension, tells the hurler to step out throw over, throws runners out, communicates with the manager and more importantly, calls the game. Insert Yadi who does all of these things extremely well and swings the bat a little. Well, swinging the bat a “little” is no longer a fair assessment.
Molina posted career highs in batting average, slugging percentage, hits doubles and home runs last year. He became a serious threat in 2011, and if it was not for blatant absence of speed, he likely could have padded another fifteen hits or so and a few more extra base hits. Yadier Molina also leads the world in pick offs for a catcher since he entered the league in 2004. If you recall, Mike Matheny opened the door for Molina to become a star and earn the tag of the best defensive catcher in baseball. One not given up easy by, still active, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. This also cleared the way for Molina to accomplish some huge moments and brand his name in Cardinals history. Yadi will soon be flashing two World Series rings, started an All Star game in his home ballpark, and who could ever forget the famous home run in the 2006 NLCS that took the Cardinals to the World Series. Does this move make sense? In my opinion, absolutely. This will sound just as weird when you read it as it does as I’m typing it, but if you are John Mozeliak (St. Louis Cardinals General Manager) and you have to sign Albert Pujols or Yadier Molina to long term deals, you have to sign Yadi. Uh yeah, I just said that, and here’s why: He is younger than Pujols, much cheaper than Pujols, less injury prone, his position does not require as much movement and the skill set for the position that Molina has, is superior to the skill set Albert has at first base. Make sense? Okay, it still doesn’t? The Redbirds are more than capable of resigning Adam Wainwright with Yadi locked in and many others to follow. It is estimated the deal being offered by the Cardinals is between five and six years at an average of $15 million per year. Big money for a catcher, but more than worth it. Yadier would be the second highest paid catcher in baseball, behind Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins. Unlike Minnesota, the Cardinals still have a ton of other key pieces with talent, and many of them, still under contract for some time.
Five years is a good contract for both ends. Yadier will not be thirty until the All Star break, his abilities at the plate improve every year. He is an every day player, and if there is anyone rookie manager, Matheny is going to trust and lean on aside from the staff, it’s Yadi. Five years makes a lot of sense for the team too. The Cardinals and their fans will enjoy Molina during his prime and at his best. He is a home town favorite and earns his money with work ethic, solid play and production. Molina is also one of the more clutch players the Majors has seen at his position in recent memory. Maybe more important than any of those things. The Redbirds won’t be married to this contract. Five years will be up before you know it, where as signing Pujols for a decade for almost eight million more a year would have severely crippled the ball club in almost every other area. Let’s not forget that the Redbirds will dump close to 33 million in payroll next year with contracts expiring on Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman. Chris Carpenter’s contract will end the following year. St. Louis will likely stay with their typical strategy and go after a few veteran arms, while Shelby Miller and other youngsters are groomed to lead the rotation for the next several years. This will ultimately allow the team to sign Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia to solidify the good young arms for the future, health pending. What better way to do that, then by locking up the heartbeat. The cornerstone, the captain behind the plate the rotation and bullpen, young and old rely on. I would be surprised If the deal does not get done. It makes too much sense not to.
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