March 1, 2012: Cardinals and Yadier Molina agree to a five-year contract extension

Less than three months after the Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to free agency, they ensured that Yadier Molina remained a franchise cornerstone with a five-year, $75 million contract.

“I’m happy to be a Cardinal for 5-6 more years,” Molina said. “This is a great organization. I grew up here, I feel good here. It was my first choice to stay here.”[1]

“He’s at the peak of his career and we’re thrilled to have him,” Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “He’s a premium player, plus he plays so much. We were both highly motivated to get this done.”[2]

The new contract paid Molina an average of $15 million per season from 2013 through 2017 and made Molina the second-highest-paid catcher in baseball, trailing only Joe Mauer and the eight-year, $184 million contract he signed in 2010.[3] Molina’s deal included a $1 million signing bonus, full no-trade protection, and no deferred money. It also had a $15 million mutual option for the 2018 season that would make the contract worth $88 million over six years.[4]

“You just want to play the game and not think about the contract or anything outside the lines,” Molina said. “You have to concentrate on the game. I’m glad we got it done now.”[5]

The announcement came one week after Molina’s longtime agent, Melvin Roman, arrived at Cardinals spring training and announced that he and Molina would not negotiate a contract extension during the season.[6] Roman’s declaration was similar to Pujols’ decision not to negotiate during the final year of his contract in 2011.

“It would have been a more difficult situation for both sides,” if Molina entered free agency following the 2012 season, Roman said. “Yadi’s goal was to stay. That’s why we tried to get it going at this time.”[7]

“Who knows what would have happened if (Molina) had gotten to the market,” DeWitt said. “Ultimately, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity we had to get something done before the season started. We’re glad it worked out.”[8]

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Molina initially sought a seven-year contract while the Cardinals were offering just three. The Cardinals also wanted to defer money in the contract, an offer that Molina’s side rejected.[9]

“I was still thinking it was a business,” Molina said. “My idea was to stay here. My commitment was to stay here with this organization because I know how great it is.”[10]

The Cardinals also knew how much Molina meant to their franchise. After making his major-league debut as a 21-year-old in 2004, Molina inherited the starting catcher duties from Mike Matheny in 2005. Since that time, Molina had led all catchers with a 39% success rate against would-be base stealers, and his 38 pickoffs over that span more than doubled his closest peer, Miguel Olivo, who had picked off 16 baserunners. [11]

Over that same time period, Cardinals pitchers had the fifth-best ERA in the majors.[12]

“It’s really hard to pigeonhole this in one area because he’s a unique player,” Mozeliak said. “Given how you value the position defensively, he’s the best in the game and he deserves to be compensated accordingly.”[13]

In the previous three seasons, Molina had appeared in more games (415) and caught more innings (3,464) than any other major-league catcher. He had earned the Gold Glove Award each of the past four seasons and won the Platinum Glove Award for the best defensive player in the game in 2011.[14]

“You see how he works with us, how he controls the running game, how he goes about it,” said Adam Wainwright. “You can’t overstate what having him means.”[15]

Molina “makes it easy for the pitcher; he makes it much easier for the defense,” said Jake Westbrook. “I’ve thrown to some very good catchers in my career but Yadi is without question the best. There’s tremendous value in what he gives a pitching staff and the team as a whole.”[16]

Matheny, who was named the Cardinals’ manager following the retirement of Tony La Russa, was asked for his opinion before the Cardinals pursued a long-term deal with Molina. He called it a “no-brainer” for the organization.[17]

“I’m happy for him,” Matheny said. “I’m happy for the organization. I’m happy for the fan base. I’m happy for me. I just told Derek (Lilliquist) he just became a better pitching coach and I just became a better manager.”[18]

Offensively, Molina was coming off his best offensive season for the Cardinals. In 2011, he reached new career highs in batting average (.305), home runs (14), extra-base hits (47), OPS (.814), and RBIs (65). It marked the second time in his career that he had hit over .300.

Since the start of the 2008 season, Molina had hit .292, the third-highest average among full-time catchers over that span. Molina’s 234 RBIs during that time frame tied him with Mauer among major-league catchers, and he ranked seventh in doubles.[19]

“He’s the best catcher in the game,” Carlos Beltran said. “When you have the best catcher in the game you have to sign him. It’s great for the organization to keep a guy like that.”[20]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz noted that signing Molina became even more important for the Cardinals in the wake of Pujols’ departure.

“The Molina signing was good for organizational morale,” he wrote. “Perhaps you think that doesn’t matter or shouldn’t matter. But it does. This franchise just went through a jolting experience, watching Albert Pujols defect to sign with Anaheim. Allowing Molina to walk would have raised questions about management’s commitment to paying core players, paying to maintain a successful nucleus. … It would have been a considerable blow to have Molina walk away a year after Pujols headed to Anaheim.”[21]

Molina’s contract proved to be a good investment for the Cardinals far beyond the morale boost it provided. Over the course of the five-year contract, Molina was named an all-star four times, won three Gold Gloves, and won a Silver Slugger. He was limited to 110 games in 2014 but appeared in at least 136 games in each of the other four years.

In April 2017, Molina and the Cardinals agreed to a three-year, $60 million contract that paid Molina $20 million per year from 2018 through 2020.


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[1] R.B. Fallstrom (Associated Press), “Cardinals, Molina reach $75M deal through 2017,” Southern Illinoisan, March 2, 2012.

[2] R.B. Fallstrom (Associated Press), “Cardinals, Molina reach $75M deal through 2017,” Southern Illinoisan, March 2, 2012.

[3] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[4] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[5] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[6] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[7] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[8] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[9] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[10] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[11] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[12] Bernie Miklasz, “Is Yadi Worth $75 Million?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[13] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[14] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[15] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[16] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[17] R.B. Fallstrom (Associated Press), “Cardinals, Molina reach $75M deal through 2017,” Southern Illinoisan, March 2, 2012.

[18] Joe Strauss, “‘A franchise-type player,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[19] Bernie Miklasz, “Is Yadi Worth $75 Million?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

[20] R.B. Fallstrom (Associated Press), “Cardinals, Molina reach $75M deal through 2017,” Southern Illinoisan, March 2, 2012.

[21] Bernie Miklasz, “Is Yadi Worth $75 Million?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 2012.

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