Blog Entry

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:26 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 4:54 pm

JUPITER, Fla. -- A lot of numbers folks and fans are suggesting that $75 million for five years is high for defense-first Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. But Molina's people were actually prepared to aim for nearly double that, $140 million over seven years, had he consented to test free agency after the year, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Molina's agents might not have gotten quite such a lofty contract for the catcher whose first double-digit home run total came last year when he hit 14. However, baseball executives absolutely love Molina and it's reasonable to assume Molina could have easily matched or beaten the $75-million deal he got with a reasonable year in 2012. Molina heard about the $140-million goal but told his agents that he wanted to do everything he can to stay in St. Louis, so we'll never know if that's right. This is that rare case where both sides seem jubilant with the deal that was done.

Competing executives don't let Molina's good-but-not-great overall offensive numbers sway them from the belief he is invaluable. "He's a shut-down catcher. He's like the Deion Sanders of catchers,'' one competing executive said. That's apparently about how the Cardinals view him, as well.

As such a unique player, Molina's $75-million deal might not have the impact one might think on Yankees catcher Russell Martin, who's a free agent after 2012, or even even Braves catcher Brian McCann, who will be a free agent after 2013 once Atlanta picks up his $12-million option for '13 (word is, they plan to do so). Molina is considered the best defensive catcher in the National League by a wide margin, and even Cardinals people say that defensive metrics haven't quite caught up.

The Cardinals weighed several things in making their assessment of Molina, including the recommendation of manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher who's told folks he had one of his best years at age 35 (Molina's new contract runs through age 35). Even more pertinent for the Cardinals, they noticed Molina's older brothers Bengie and Jose both performed into their mid 30s. Bengie had 20 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .265 at age 35 in 2009, and Jose hit .281 last year at age 35.

Molina's $75-million contract trails only Joe Mauer's $184-million contract and Mike Piazza's $91-million contract alltime for catchers. But it's clear his handlers thought he could have at least beaten Piazza had he been willing to test the free-agent market.


Since: Sep 24, 2010
Posted on: March 7, 2012 4:18 pm

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

Mr. Heyman...reading your articles is like watching the Jersey know it's going to be a painful train wreck, but you can't help but to look to see how terrible it can get.

Since: Jul 30, 2008
Posted on: March 7, 2012 3:55 pm

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

When did Molina become Johnny Bench?

Since: Apr 25, 2010
Posted on: March 5, 2012 7:37 pm

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

The Redbirds are figuring that they are where they need to be to add one or more championships in the next five years.  After all, they won last year without Wainwright.  They have subtracted a problem in centerfield.  They have at least a partial Albert replacement, if you will, in Beltran.  The pen should be as good or better than last year.  I will admit a couple of these points are arguable.  Regardless what you think, the Birds are close.

But catcher is the key as far as handling pitching and defense.  Those are Yadi's strength.  Not my money but makes sense to me and I definitely see where the Cardinals are coming from.

Since: May 27, 2008
Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:16 pm

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

On what planet is Yadier Molina worth $140 million?

Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:40 pm

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

Using Jason Kendall as a benchmark ain't exactly shooting for the stars.

Since: Feb 29, 2012
Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:36 pm

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

When I assess this deal, it is hard not to think that the Cards got a fantastic value for Molina.  Just think about this one fact.  12 years ago, Jason Kendall received a 5 year $60Million deal with the Pirates.  If you adjust for inflation, Kendall got more $$ per year than Molina will in this deal.  While Kendall may have been a bit better with the bat at the beginning of his career, he severely underperformed in that contract and I think besides games started behind the plate, his only first place statistical finish in those years was for the KO crown.  I look at it as if Molina only has to perform better than Kendall in order to count this as a major steal for the Cards.  That should not be too hard to do. 

Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:03 pm

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

Does Molina deserve a nice hometown deal? Of course, he's been the backbone of this Cardinals ballclub, and now that Albert Pujols is gone and the Cardinals have money to spend, it was wise to lock Molina up for the next 5 seasons.

This article is ridiculous though. No one in their right mind wants to give 7 years to a catcher. In particular for a catcher that wouldn't be an optimal choice for the DH slot. The Joe Mauer deal was over the top, but he still projected at the time to be a high-ceiling option at 1B and DH in the later parts of his career. Mike Piazza was hitting the cover off the ball well into his 30s. Take Molina out of the catchers role at 36/37 years old and he can't do much for you. A career .331 OBP averaging around 10 HRs a season wouldn't make DH for 90% of American League clubs.

Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:47 am

Molina deal a bargain? Was $140M realistic as FA?

He might have gotten more than $75million as a free agent, but not much if he kept to 5 years...maybe $5million total, but I doubt it, certainly not much more (especially if he had any drop in his career average and HR numbers this year).  I don't think, as good as Molina is, anyone would have gone $20million/year and certainly not for 7 years.  I think Molina's contract was just about right in terms of market value for both the Cardinals and Molina.

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