Perhaps because it was expected long before it was official, but in a web search conducted the morning after the announcement of the St. Louis Cardinals’ five-year, $75 million contract extension with catcher Yadier Molina, finding national opinion pieces has been a bit of a challenge.
An extraordinary number of national sites seemed to have just run with the standard AP story. Several other local papers put the deal into the context of their own team’s catcher close to hitting the open market.
Here are a few of the summary comments, with links to the full articles. More to be added as I find them.
These deals are easy to rationalize — and easy to criticize, too. I understand why some rival clubs are annoyed with the Cardinals. I would not be shocked if the team regrets paying Molina $15 million per season, particularly in the latter part of the deal.
But again, what was the alternative?
If I were the Cardinals and needed to pay Molina a few extra million per season to keep him off the open market, I’m not sure I would have done much differently.
So if he produces like he did in 2011, Molina should justify the contract when you also consider his popularity in St. Louis (he received the loudest ovations of any Cardinals player during the World Series) and what he means to the franchise in the absence of Albert Pujols. If he reverts back to being a durable .290/.350/.390 hitter with superb defense, the Cardinals will have slightly overpaid but not drastically so.
I understand the desire to show the fan base that Molina wouldn’t be the next Pujols, and that the team was still intent on keeping the team’s best players from walking away via free agency, but at this price, perhaps the Cardinals could have just waited another 12 months before committing top dollar to a defensive specialist. Molina may very well be worth the money, but the Cardinals had to pay a premium price to lock up their star catcher, and if his bat regresses in 2012, they may regret not waiting for his value to drop slightly before committing to him long term.
Still, this deal looks better upon closer examination than I initially thought it would. My expectation of $40 million over four years looks like it would have been far too team friendly given what Molina should be able to produce going forward. This contract keeps a premium player in St. Louis, and sometimes, premium players just cost premium money. Like with the Ryan Zimmerman extension in Washington, this isn’t any kind of bargain, but it ensures that St. Louis will have a high quality backstop going forward. That has real value, especially for a team attempting to defend a World Championship.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and their catcher Miguel Montero broke off contract discussions on Wednesday, the day before Molina’s official announcement.
Two days ago, word broke that the St. Louis Cardinals had agreed to terms with their All-Star catcher, Yadier Molina, on a five-year deal worth $75 million. Molina is one year older than Montero and more established, having been the Cardinals’ starter since 2005, but the length and dollars of that deal are indicative of the dearth of good catching available in the majors.
And Montero has been the superior offensive player throughout his career. Given that another offensive-minded catcher, Victor Martinez, received a four-year, $50 million deal as a free agent two off-seasons ago, it could wind up taking a record commitment by the Diamondbacks in order to retain Montero after the season.
The Rangers’ Mike Napoli seems very aware that he has become the highest-visibility impending free agent catcher this fall.
Mike Napoli saw the St. Louis Cardinals signed catcher Yadier Molina to a five-year deal worth a reported $75 million, but didn’t read too much into the numbers. He doesn’t know what his value will be when he becomes a free agent after this season.
Napoli had discussions with the Texas Rangers this winter about a long-term deal, but those talks stalled. Instead, Napoli and the Rangers reached a one-year, $9.4 million in his final year of arbitration.
Napoli said talks of a deal have been “squashed,” and he’s focused on the season rather than free agency.
“I’d love to be here, but I’ll test the market,” Napoli said. “Every player plays to get to free agency. But it’s not something I’m going to worry about. That’s why I have my agent.”
The Yankees’ Russell Martin is also slated to reach free agency following the 2012 season. The deep-pocketed Yankees are fearful of the new salary cap penalties and that impacts their plans with Martin.
Now the chances of Martin re-signing become much, much slimmer. Martin is kind of Molina Lite. Martin is a very good defensive catcher (the Yankees love him), but Molina is viewed as clearly the best in the game. Also, Molina went from a career of ordinary or below-average offense to a breakout last year when he hit .305 with a .465 slugging percentage. However, his career slash line of .274/.331/.377 is quite similar to that of Martin: .267/.359/.398. They are both 29.
So it stands to reason that Martin will be able to use Molina’s contract, which will have an average value of $14 million to $15 million, as a gauge. Martin will not get that much, but he now is probably looking at something in the four-year, $40 million range; especially if he has a good year and gets out on the free-agent market. There is a dearth of quality catching in the sport. And there certainly is a dearth of those in or near their prime years who are two-way catchers like Martin. In other words, in free agency, supply and demand would take over, Martin will probably receive bids from multiple teams and the price will rise.
With the Atlanta Braves and Brian McCann having a 2013 option, the catcher may not reach the market this coming winter. As such, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution isn’t yet talking about any potential Molina impact. Like many others, they ran the AP story about Molina.
On Wednesday, they had a long feature piece on McCann (see link above), but the contract was never mentioned. The focus was on his second-half 2011 slide.
Update: Sporting News’ Stan McNeal writes that the Braves now have to hope McCann will take a $5 million per year hometown discount. He blames it on the Molina deal, despite his belief that McCann’s abilities are more comparable to Joe Mauer rather than Molina.
In the wake of Yadier Molina’s five-year, $75 million contract extension with the Cardinals, several emailers wondered whether Carlos Ruiz will be in line for a big pay-day once his current contract expires. As valuable as Ruiz has been for the Phillies, the comparison isn’t a fair one.
For starters, Ruiz will be 33 years old this season and he still has a $5 million option for 2013. So he won’t be hitting free agency until he is entering his 35-year-old season. To put that in perspective, when Molina’s new deal expires, he will be entering his 34-year-old season. The age difference alone — Molina will be 29 this season — is enough to render any comparison moot.
Finally, we close with an interesting perspective from a site associated with one of the Cubs’ rightsholders. No analysis is offered – just a warning. After all, that team’s followers are all too familiar with the problem of a roster clogged with overpaid and underperforming players.
This actually may help the Cubs and the NL Central in the future. Molina’s contract was set to expire at the end of this 2012 season. He will turn 30 in July, which means he will be 35 by the time this new deal is complete.
Who wants to pay a 35-year-old catcher $15 mil? That could severely hamper the Cardinals’ funds. Especially when they will pay a 36-year-old Matt Holliday $17 million in 2016, the year before Molina’s deal expires.
The Cardinals could be a very cash-strapped organization come 2016-17.
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