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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Defending Yadier Molina

As 2011 became 2012, I predicted that catcher Yadier Molina’s contract situation will be the second-biggest story of the New Year for the St. Louis Cardinals, behind Adam Wainwright’s comeback from elbow surgery. Based on early returns, I may have had the two reversed.

Since that article appeared, Molina ducked the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up fan festival for the second consecutive year amid speculation that he was upset over the departure of his friend Albert Pujols via free agency.

Said to be looking trim and fit, Molina reported to Cardinals spring training camp in Jupiter, Fla. a week early. The Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss was there to ask the contract questions I and probably every other reporter at Winter Warm-Up wanted to pose; questions whose answers so many have been yearning to hear.

Readers could find both the positive and the negative in the catcher’s response. For me, the entire situation was summed up in two consecutive paragraphs.

“I’m open to staying here. I love the city. I love the fans. I love the ballpark. But it’s out of my hands,” Molina said. “Whatever they like to do is how it is. They let Albert go. It’s business for the team, too. It’s out of my hands.”

The Cardinals have engaged Molina’s agent, Melvin Roman, in preliminary talks about an extension. Though Molina would prefer the matter be resolved before opening day, he won’t enforce Pujols’ mandate that negotiations be resolved before his official report date to camp.

Those already worried that Molina will follow his friend Albert’s free-agent path out of St. Louis this fall immediately lodged onto the dually-emphasized phrase, “It’s out of my hands,” words very similar to ones Pujols uttered more than once in recent years.

Even before this latest news, almost one in every five Cardinals fans were worried enough to consider trading Molina, according to a January 20 poll here. I expect that polarized minority will grow in size and volume as 2012 unfolds.

On the positive side, Molina’s agent and the Cardinals will apparently continue to talk about a new deal throughout the season if necessary. That is very important and should not be under-emphasized.

On one level, Molina saying his future is out of hands is laughable, on another, it is completely understandable.

It is out of his hands until the Cardinals make a fair offer for his continued services – though there are certainly actions he and his agent can take to facilitate the process both before and after an offer is on the table.

The Cardinals have to be careful, too, as they try to assess whether Molina’s asking price resides within their comfort zone. At this stage of the game, making an offer perceived as insulting can be more damaging than not making one at all. Those who think the Cardinals are in control of the situation – willing to snap their fingers and close the deal – are incredibly naive.

There is plenty of time remaining for both sides to talk. The fact that Molina is in spring camp early, seemingly in good shape and ready to play baseball is a positive sign.

The fact that he is apparently willing to let his agent and the Cardinals work on his contract while he focuses on his job is another good thing, as far as I am concerned.

It is most unlikely that either side will be providing regular updates on the progress of their negotiations, so the impatient need to deal with that. Still, at some point this year, it would not be surprising to me for a press conference to be announced out of the blue during which a new deal is announced.

Yet if that doesn’t happen and Molina ultimately decides to test free agency this fall – as did Pujols and Matt Holliday among others before him – that is his right; just as it is the right of the Cardinals to set a limit as to how much they will offer their catcher and to determine the best time to make their move(s). (Through a recent set of polls here, a five-year, $65 million offer won out as the fans’ best offer to Molina.)

In the meantime, I would find it hard to believe that anyone worth listening to does not believe the 2012 Cardinals will be a better team with Molina than without. Right now, isn’t that what it is all about – fielding the 25 players that give the team the best chance of repeating as World Champions?

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13 Responses to “Defending Yadier Molina”

  1. CariocaCardinal says:

    It is not as black and white and you make it sound Brian when it comes to the idea of fielding the 25 best players possible. If that was an absolute truth, wouldn’t we most likely have traded Miller, Martinez, and Tavares in the off season for talent that can help us now? If you think that would be a dumb idea then it seems illogical that you also wouldn’t trade Molina for the right mix of prospects. Would we be worse off with a handful of prospects (possibly 1 that would be able to contribute this year) and using Molina’s salary to sign OSwalt? I don’t know the absolute answer to that but to totally dismiss the idea of trading Molina you’d have to be more than certain of that.

    • Brian Walton says:

      It seems very simple to me. The Cardinals believe they have a roster that is competitive to win the NL Central in 2012. Trading Molina for a group of prospects would weaken the 2012 team.

      There is a present vs. future tradeoff in any move of any kind but I have seen no compelling reason to trade Molina and see more risk than reward in the case of the 2012 season.

      If the Cardinals weren’t the Cardinals – if they were a non-contending, rebuilding club – if they had a terrible farm system in need of replenishment – my opinion would be different.

  2. CariocaCardinal says:

    I think Westie made a good point in the other thread indicating that if Yadi is looking for a certain number there seems little risk in waiting. The Cards can always agree to that number at a later date and in the mean time Yadi might get injured or drop off for some reason.

    • Brian Walton says:

      On this we agree. Of course, no one knows if Yadi is showing his hand.

      If I was sitting at that table now, months before free agency, no matter which side I was representing – player or team – I would not declare first. I would wait for the other side to indicate what they want. Why give up leverage?

      All things considered, the player has the advantage, IMO. He has a small risk of injury or dropoff in play, but the upside is far greater. If making the most money possible is the goal, free agency is the route to take. In the case of Holliday, it worked out for the Cards. With Pujols, the end result was different.

  3. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    “Those who think the Cardinals are in control of the situation – able to snap their fingers and close the deal – are incredibly naive.”????????????????

    Molina excepts today……….3/45………..4/57……….5/65 it it were offered…..today………there have been no offers…………….. BD does not make offers…….he avoids them………. Yadi is sitting on 4 GG’s and a world series title……………… he wants to deal now………….. I talked about every facet of the Pujols situation for 18 months………….and it came to pass………..pretty much on cue…… the team was at the commissioners digression was the only variable…..and that was talked about 7 months ago ………. the bottom line ….
    Molina said. “Whatever they like to do is how it is”……………………… exactly…………. Molina’s donation to Cardinal care in less polite terms is called a “fine:”…..there is still blood in the water…….. DeWitt is watching closely….judging Molina’s attitude….his vulnerabilities………….. The prize here isn’t Molina………its who these kids coming up are going to be working with………………. without Tony….with out the Albert rules……..how will Molina react to a more realistic “self evaluation” without his security blanket………….. I’d bet BD wants to know too………….. there will of course be no “no trade” protection……….and the price if signed now would have to be good enough to avoid substantial loses if they do turn him over……………………… His only destination would be the Angels I’d guess…….. Angels might want to avoid that depending on the future they envision………… especially if…as I’m predicting……..Moreno and Fox have an out should Pujols slump……………. and BD would know that…… I wait till June before I make him an offer………. see whats coming………Reclaiming a wounded AP in 2 or 3 years might be allot easier if some of his homeboys are around ……… should be entertaining ………..

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      No one is giving Molina that kind of money. Not BDW, not anyone. Not now, not later.

      • CariocaCardinal says:

        When one says nothing (or everything) it is easy to say they were right. Reminds me of the quote “if you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there”. I guess it makes sense I would associate the two – Alice in WOnderland and Westie in lala land. :)

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Westie, here is the deal. Nobody knows for sure what will happen. Does anyone know what the win loss records will be for everyteam in 2012? Of course not. We do not know who will be injured, who will excel, bounce back, or who will fall apart. Nor do we know what the economy will look like next winter and how much money teams will invest in elite free agents.
          Here is what we do know, thanks to Brian. Yadier and Raffy hang out with Albert in the offseason and play backgammon. The Angels gave so much money to Albert, he had to leave. His little buddy Raffy got paid so much by Mo that he decided to come back to St Louis. Money can explain a lot in terms of where free agents wind up.

          • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

            Domino’s

            • JumboShrimp says:

              Good point, Westie. Not myself a player of dominoes or backgammon, I am cluess about their distinctions.
              It is nice to see these baseballers rendering civic service within the DR. Thanks to Brian’s work, we have seen them pursuing their duties associated with a softball game for charity. And in the course of this, they take a little time out for the playing of dominoes.

      • friendmouse says:

        I’m pretty sure some team would be quite willing to offer 5/65 money to Yadi. Only time will tell, and, as an oft-used phrase here in Texas goes…”We’re fixin’ to find out!”

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Veterans earn their economic emancipation. Its just a normal and routine part of the business of MLB today. So its good for fans not to fret the Molina situation. Typically, deals in baseball come down to a deadline. We see this all the time.
    The Union generally wants leading free agents to do their duty and to extract as much as can be extracted in free agency, since there is supposed to be a trickle down effect that helps lesser players too. This often involves shifting teams, but if the home team stays in the bidding, it can win some too, as with Matt Holliday. While loyalties and friendships can enter the picture, money is an important factor too.
    The Cards shelled out big bucks for Furcal and Beltran, so they came here for their twilight playing years. Arte showed Albert even more money, so he had to move on to render service to a bigger TV market.
    I agree with Albert and Yadier. Its out of their hands. Baseball players are mercenaries who flow to the highest bidders. If we have a guy who is too good for a mid market franchise, we have to say good bye. A lot will depend on the state of the market next winter. The Cards have number crunchers who will analyze the possibilities and costs, to help Mo shape Plans A, B, C, and D.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      For DeWitt and Mo, they have to not worry about free agency. Its just part of the game, so you do not want to fret about it. It is what it is. You figure out what you think is a fair offer for Molina this spring. Then you figure out another offer, after the season, based on what happenned. If he leaves, he leaves, and we say thanks for the great memories.

      Here is the important thing. Its out of Mo’s hands too, just as much as it is out of Yadier’s. It takes two to agree. Neither can reach an agreement without the full and informed consent of the other party. So there is some unpredictability. Sometimes things will work out here, other times they will not. Its out of everybody’s control.

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