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The Molina contract: What the writers are saying

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.

Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports

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.

David Schoenfield, ESPN

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.

Dave Cameron, Fangraphs

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.

Nick Piecoro, Arizona Republic

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.

Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star Telegram

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.

Joel Sherman, New York Post

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.

Steve Hummer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.

David Murphy, Philadelphia Daily News

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.

Tony Andracki, CSN Chicago

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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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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36 Responses to “The Molina contract: What the writers are saying”

  1. blingboy says:

    Its so funny hearing the Cards talked about as the irresponsible free spender ruining things for all the other owners. Boo hoo.

    The general gist seems to be about what it has been here on TCNB. The team paid top dollar. All things considered, the alternatives didn’t look too good. If reasonably healthy, he should be worth the money. As with any long term contract, the end years are a risk, perhaps more so with a catcher than some other position players.

    2016-17 may be problematic, and maybe not, but I bet we win more games than that guy’s team between now and then. And after then, too.

    Three days till the roll-out.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      BB…………… the argument that there were a bunch of top catchers coming out as FAgents next yr….seems to sit a little funny as BD used the reverse logic in his AP approach………….. this will effect all arbitration negotiations for catchers ………… there were obviously issues of very local relevance in this contract ………… give credit to Roman ………. he was taking names ……….. all the way down to the million dollar signing bonus …………. makes this year 8 not 7 …………….. Wainwright is sitting pretty…

      • blingboy says:


        I’m sure that having continuity in calling games and handling pitchers, during games and otherwise, is especially beneficial with all the coaching churn. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a key consideration, and one not fully valued by the national pundits.

        Coincidently, the money not spent on Tony and Dave roughly approximates the increase in Molina’s salary.

        • Kansasbirdman says:

          BB that was the question posed in my post yesterday. I concur that it was a consideration. The question we may never know is how much it was valued as part of his salary. Interesting point to value it in terms of losing TLR and DD.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          Don’t get me wrong……….I like the signing………I could care less about the money………….it does reveal though a vulnerable position that BD got himself into……….. It is more of an opportunity to recalibrate (for some of you) than anything else ……………. bottom line ………… DeWitt is battling bigger monsters that Yadi ………… and Roman knew it …………. cha ching …………….. wait tell he meets Godzilla himself…

  2. friendmouse says:

    Brian, if you’d like another idea for a “topic of interest,” I was just thinking of something which would be of considerable interest to me…and possibly to other “lazy” readers herein who prefer, at times, for others to do the research! 🙂 With Yadi now joining the ranks of the elite money-earners, and the discussions about how much the Card’s payroll is this year, and will we be able to afford Player X next year, etc., I’m wondering just how much ARE the Cardinals paying in player salaries this year? I hear in the $100 – $110 million range this year. And how much is already committed for 2013? I heard J-MO on XM radio this morning, and he said they have a lot of flexibility in the coming years as it relates to not having very much “long-term” money committed. I know Lohse & Westbrook are coming in their final year of their contracts. I know we’ve go CC for 3 more years, and 5 more Holliday years at $17 per, and I’ve already forgotten, but think Furcal is 2 years? And Beltran…was that 4 years? I know we’ve got some fine prospects which we can expect some big contributions from in the next 2 years, and their low salaries will be helpful.
    Anyway, just an idea. Otherwise, I’ll have to look it up and figure it out on my own. 🙂

    • Brian Walton says:

      I used to spend a lot of time analyzing contracts, but here is my conclusion. The Cardinals can make just about any deal work that they want. They set their own budget based on financial criteria not available to us. They can underspend or overspend. They can trade players, non-tender them, let them leave as free agents. There are so many levers that can be pulled, I never consider anything out of the realm of possibility. I just chuckle when I read people saying they can’t do this or that.

      The only significant limiter is the MLB’s competitive balance tax, as it has real penalties. (This was discussed in the NY Post article above.) The Cards are miles away from that threshold, which is $178 million. In six years down the road, there will be a new TV deal and more money as well.

      • crdswmn says:

        I also find it amusing that so many Cardinals fans are more worried about Bill DeWitt’s money than he is.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Right. Like anything, there is a balance. On the other side of the ledger, because it isn’t their money, there are folks who expect the Cardinals to make aggressive, risky spending decisions at times just to do something. Like all clubs, the Cardinals have made their mistakes, but overall, this ownership group has done pretty well, IMO.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Walt seemed more of a bottom feeder on price in StL than does Mo. Maybe DeWitt has more confidence in Mo or they communicate more effectively.
    Mo has shelled out serious bucks for Holliday, Pineiro, Furcal, Westbrook, Beltran, Lohse, Berkman, now Molina. Mo is decisive and when he sees a deal he is willing to pursue, will give a player a top deal for his ability and leverage. I was surprised the Cards won Beltran, outbidding the Blue Jays who had just bailed us out financially by carting away Trevor Miller and another southpaw.

  4. bigchieftootiemontana says:

    Gotta say I think it is a great deal for the Cardinals and Mr. Molina. In the poll i think I voted 5 years 13$million. Like others have said he is a field general and knows how to handle the pitchers, plus appears to be in better shape this spring. He will respond to the stroking and massaging this player favored contract gives to him. Even if his knees give out in three years and he isn’t the main catcher for the last two , it’s worth it in my opinion.

    Great job bring all the writer quotes in, Brian! That Chicago CNN guy is wrongo bongo on the Redbirds being cash strapped come 2017.

    In other news, Dusty Baker is defending his choice to have Ryan Ludwick be cleanup hitter and have Rolen hit sixth, with Phillips leading off,in the Reds first training game Saturday.

  5. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Matheny’s “willingness” to talk trivial discriminations and “our” thinking ……….. or “we” are doing this or that…… makes my nostrils flare a little bit …………………. I find it odd …………….is he threatening to do this all year long??????????? lets hope no one muddies the waters……………least we/he drown… plain site ………………… I would advise him to play his cards a little closer to his chest ………… Mo/BD have been barred from the field for years ………………… they aren’t right now ……….. that will lead to trouble in my experience ………….. and he will be the goat………..

    • blingboy says:

      Westy, it sounds like you miss Tony. Bill and Mo are just enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, like everybody else.

      There is another Colby story in the P-D today.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        An interesting Colby story, more complicated and perceptive than most of the opinions that have been articulated about him during the years.
        Its encouraging Colby is looking for positive outlooks plus wants more breathing room with his father. Psychology is a very important part of the game. TLR used to say it matters what is going on, inside their coconuts.
        The Cards and fans heaped so many expectations on Rasmus, this may have created ridiculous pressure and helped him feel friendless. Getting traded can give many players the feeling of a fresh start and make them feel more comfortable.

      • Brian Walton says:

        I also continue to wish him the best in finding whatever it is that he is seeking. On the other hand, at some point, the talking about the past should end and the results will need to speak, IMO. RC said last week’s flurry was the end of the rehashing, but it does not seem to be the case. Hoping most of all that Colby can find a way to finally turn the page.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Rasmus seems more promising than Hurdle, who was more of a corner OF stiff. If Colby can defend CF well enough, the offensive burden for a CF is lower than RF or LF, an advantage for him.

        I thought the article was inspired by the P-D and was not inspired by Rasmus needing to vent. Its probably healthy for Rasmus to talk a bit more and the article may be reflective of his opening up more, as he becomes older, not a bad thing.

        The Marlins had a corner OF, left swinger, very hyped, a few years ago. He has not been able to achieve much success in the majors, though he early on popped a grand slam off Al Reyes. The Rays also had a left swinging OF who Tony’s buddy Lou Piniella used to ride to realize his potential and that did not turn out to have a happy ending. Corey Patterson was a hugely touted left swinging CF for the Cubs and ridiculous expectations were heaped on him.
        For us fans, we have probably interpreted RCW as a spokesperson for Colby. It would be hard not to do this. But there is a chicken versus egg problem, which one of them developed a doubtful viewpoint about the Cards, first? RCW is a powerful personality. He may have seen some of his own traits in TLR and became skeptical StL was a good fit for his son and then encouraged this outlook in the young man.
        From hereon, it may be great for Colby to be given a fresh situation that lifts his spirits. He can forget about TLR, the St Louis media, and his Dad’s advocacy for a trade. Instead, look forward, and play the game a pitch at a time.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Billie Beane may be another example of a big kid, left swinger, high draft pick and hyped, though a corner OF. If a kid like this cannot hit strongly in the majors from the get go, he will often land on the bench or be sent down, because successful teams need a lot of offense from RF and LF.
          The advantage Rasmus may have over Hurdle or Beane is ability to play CF. Being able to play CF gave Corey Patterson a job for years and allowed him to earn a lot of money. The same could happen for Rasmus.
          Colby has gotten three years of experience in the majors already. Thats a valuable educational foundation. If Colby can earn at bats in Toronto during 2012, he should be able to build on what he has learned, and lift his game significantly.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          Is anyone here even seeing what the “it ” is????????? He has no background as a manager ………. these are the first signs of a problem in my opinion …………. these are risk assessments …………… the “supposed” value of the commodity is being “shared” or suspended in his experience………….. it suggests that he is in a dialog about such valuations …………. not immersed in the experience…… can us say Mo……………

          • blingboy says:

            He’s pushing back some, Westy.

            “A team that preaches pitching to contact, working ahead in the count, getting groundballs, you better have a shortstop who can help you out, or else you’re going to have some trouble in your philosophy,” manager Mike Mathey said.”

            Reading that quote got me annoyed all over again about last year’s ‘we’ll make the routine plays’ nonsense. But I do like Matheney’s choice of words “you’re going to have some trouble in your philosophy”. It will be nice living in real world this year instead of Tonyland.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Everyone is still 0-0 today.

            • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

              Amen to that BB …………………. he needs to take this job by the horns ……….. he is still sharing it too much ………………… that is my observation ………… the team will suffer if he doesn’t ……….. mediocrity for talented people is so easily achieved …………………. In defense of Tony ….and I hate to ……. those were his battle-lines …………… for good or bad ………………… when he ended the conflict ……. his team excelled ……………… unless Matheny takes… and occupies/defends some turf…….he is nothing more than a figure head ………….. his Christian deportment is why he was chosen ………….. it is/will be both his weakness…….and his strength ………… right now ………I hope he sees the cross they are building….no need to wear that I hope……….

          • CariocaCardinal says:

            How would we see that Westie? We are all a bunch of idiots and you are the all knowing. Only you know the “true’ answer so why ask rhetorical questions?

  6. Brian Walton says:

    Jon Heyman is reporting that Team Molina was prepared to seek 7/$140 this fall.

    Here is a clip from that article especially for Carioca:

    …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…

    • crdswmn says:

      I saw that. I think 140 million is really out there, but I don’t think it is outside the realm of possibility that Molina could have gotten more than 75 million in FA. I have heard that the Yankees were ambivalent about re-signing Russell Martin until Molina signed. I’d be willing to bet if Molina had gone to FA the Yankees would have been in the mix.

      All is speculation and since the deal is done, only time will tell whether it was a good deal for either side.

      • Brian Walton says:

        The Yankees are so different from the Cardinals. They obviously have deeper pockets, but they also surprisingly have several good catching prospects close to the majors even after trading away Jesus Montero this winter. (Trivia: Montero’s younger brother, also named Jesus, is in the Cardinals system. Last year, he caught at Johnson City.)

        As we saw with Matheny, when the Cards had a real catching prospect in the wings, they were ok with letting the veteran go. It would be sheer speculation, but I have to wonder what would have happened had that situation been present this time around.

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      And Pujols wanted 10/300 and Jackson wanted 5/60 and I think the word was Lohse was looking for 5/60 the year he ended up getting 1/4. Nothing in that article indicated he would get that amount. Just a PR piece by his agents in my opinion.

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      What adds to the ridiculousness of that request (as well as the contract that he got ) is the fact that catchers play about 20% less games than most players on average. That would make that request equivelent of $24MM AAV and his current one $18MM AAV when normalized for games played.

  7. crdswmn says:

    Good thing today was a ST game because the World Champions sucked until the 9th inning and then it was the kids who played this game.

  8. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Matheny, who arrived at the Cardinals’ complex a bit after 4 a.m., said he had received an earful this morning from “a couple of guys,” who aren’t in today’s lineup but who wanted to be. Inasmuch as most of the regulars except Lance Berkman, Rafael Furcal and David Freese are in the lineup, the needle points to that trio.

    “I love that,” said Matheny. “I love that they’re ready to go and want to go.”

    Read more:

    They weren’t for a reason …………….. can you guess it……….. there will be early cuts for some ………. Adams at first was by request ………………….. the point is that a win or a loss is irrelevant ……….. but not insignificant …………….. Molina hitting 5th ?????????? these valuations are about the coach and his relationship to the GM ……………. if Berkman comes to the park and say I want to play …….. even for 3 innings …………….. how do you tell him no ………………. sorry Lance, we are doing a little prospecting …………. not having a lineup posted yesterday shows what???????????? he knew Lohse was his starter…………. Matheny is coaching a program right now …………….. not a team …………. I could care less ……………… but why is he talking about it??????????????????

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