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TCN Blog 2012 Cardinals top story #4: Molina, team MVP

In 2012, Yadier Molina fully emerged from the long shadow of Albert Pujols and became the clear Most Valuable Player of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Beyond Pujols’ departure, the 30-year-old had additional reason to feel heavy responsibility. Prior to the season, ownership granted him the fourth-largest contract in team history at five years, $75 million. That deal initially raised some eyebrows around the game.

Molina did his part, putting together the best offensive season of his career for the second consecutive year. He became the first St. Louis catcher ever to lead his team in batting in back-to-back seasons (.315 in 2012, .305 in 2011). Molina also paced the 2012 Cardinals in wins above replacement (WAR). His 6.3 mark was far ahead of the next-closest Cardinals, at 3.9 WAR.

Molina set new career highs this season with 22 home runs, 76 RBI, 64 runs and 159 hits. Those 22 home runs are second only to Ted Simmons (26 in 1979) for the most by a Cardinals catcher in one season.

Molina’s numbers also stacked up well on the national stage. Among all National Leaguers – not just catchers – Molina ranked fourth in batting average, 10th in one-base percentage (.373) and 14th in slugging (.501).

Not considered fast afoot by any measurement, Molina remains a very smart baserunner. He led all major league catchers with 12 stolen bases and had a success rate of 75 percent (12 of 15).

Even without his offensive contributions, his defense could alone make him the team leader. Former MLB backstop and long-time Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan has called Molina the best defensive catcher he has ever seen.

Molina’s 32 runners caught stealing topped MLB. His 48 percent caught stealing rate ranked second in the game. He also picked three runners off base this season. That raised his career total to 45, most among all catchers from 2004-2012.

His most-observed, but least measurable asset perhaps, is his game-calling and stewardship behind the plate. First-year starting pitchers opened 46 of the team’s 162 games this season. Despite that, the Cardinals finished third in the NL with a 3.62 starting pitchers ERA.

With the exception of short-timers J.C. Romero and Brian Fuentes, every one of the 19 relievers that took the mound for the Cardinals this season had five or less years of MLB experience. The team’s bullpen ERA of 3.90 placed them ninth in the league.

During 2012, Molina made a strong first step toward proving he is going to be worth every dollar of the large commitment the organization gave him.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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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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73 Responses to “TCN Blog 2012 Cardinals top story #4: Molina, team MVP”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    The Berkman deal is a reminder that some teams have plenty of money they can find in January for a guy who can help them. The Rangers could pop for Lohse next.

    Meanwhile, Hairston will get his payday, from the Mets or Bombers.

    Hairston’s nonavailability can help explain why the Cards settled with Wigginton for a right swinging role player. He may not be Mr. Right, but Wiggy was Mr. Available.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Yadier Molina was fantastic during 2012.

    I hope they can play the backup catcher more during 2013, so Yadier gets more off days, in hopes he can be stronger late during the long season.

  3. blingboy says:

    A couple thoughts:

    1) The common wisdom is Wainy will likely join 2017 boys Yadi and Matt, but I just wonder how much money BDW is willing to spend for something he can probably get by without. The young guys would benefit from Adam’s experience, but Yadi also provides leadership for them. And they will be less young going into 2014. At which point, Carp might be willing to provide some veteran stability on a one year extension. I’d like to see the bigger, longer term money go for a shortstop, which we don’t have, instead of a pitcher, which we do have. Both would be ideal, but this isn’t LA.

    2) The Dodgers have all the money, so how come they didn’t want Choate?

    • Brian Walton says:

      1) Doesn’t every rotation need a veteran stopper? As good as he is, Molina can’t take the mound to end a losing streak.

      • blingboy says:

        My thinking is we should have two this year in Wainy and Carp. As to 2014, do we need to make a big long term commitment to secure Wainy for several years? Or could we extend Carp for a year? That puts us going into 2015. If one of the young studs isn’t developing into the role by then I’ll eat my hat.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Given his age and injury history, assuming Carp will still have enough left in 2014 is a gamble I would not be comfortable in taking.

          • blingboy says:

            I wouldn’t either . . . . right now. If he looks good later this season the risk factor would be a lot different. The money it would take to extend Wainy might be a more, or less, depending on how he looks by then, so the risk factor there would be different too. No need getting in a rush. Time will clarify things.

            • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

              DeWitt has the shears in place on Cardinal Village……… Can’t see him ducking AW and drawing attention to himself……… He will go 4/80 at least. Business is business.

              • blingboy says:

                Not signing him this winter would stir up the “Albert all over again” talk for sure. But if he didn’t worry about it then, why should he now?

                • Bw52 says:

                  Let AW have a Cy Young All Star season before the 4/80 nonsense takes hold.If AW wants that kind of money i hope he like LA or NY.Hope like hell Cards don`t give any pitcher 20 million a year.

                  • Brian Walton says:

                    Greinke got 6/$147 guaranteed. How much less would Waino take?

                    You seem to have forgotten that Waino came in third in the Cy Young voting in 2009 and was second in 2010. He was an all-star the latter year, too.

                    • Bw52 says:

                      I also know Waino is just a year removed from missing a whole season and is another year older.I also know IMO that it is stupid to give a pitcher that much money.I didn`t forget anything Brian.I just don`t think the Cards need to spend on AW with the young arms coming up.What`s the point of having the young players if you aren`t going to use them?

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      You said, “Let AW have a Cy Young All Star season…” I pointed out that he has had two.

                      Now you suggest that signing him will block the young pitchers, which would be true if they had a one-man rotation instead of five. That has nothing to with money, anyway.

                      I worry about them overpaying Wainwright, too, but have an open mind.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      I worry about people who worry about spending someone else’s money as if they are better able to make business decisions for the team. If BDW thinks paying Waino whatever amount of money is a good business decision he will do it, if not he won’t. He has done a pretty good job so far. I happen to think extending Waino is a good idea for the rotation in the long term for a number of reasons, but I don’t make those decisions. If he leaves, I’ll be upset, but I’ll get over it.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      And I wasn’t referring to you Brian, just the general “they” who expend brain energy worrying BDW won’t do what they want him to do.

  4. CariocaCardinal says:

    I dont think 4/80 gets it done, Even if Dewitt were to offer that extension this off season. It most certainly wont get it done next off season barring a major drop off from AW.

  5. Bw52 says:

    If AW wants 4/80 i hope thje Cards aren`t dumb enough to give it to him.Good bye AW and don`t let the door hit you in the ass.

  6. Brian Walton says:

    A reference point from July: “How much will it take for the Cardinals to keep Wainwright”.

    Take a look at some of the other contracts and what voting at the time indicated – four years, $17-20 million.

  7. blingboy says:

    From the 2014 season forward, I doubt Adam would add $19.5M+ over whatever else we can trot out there for cheap. He is a great starter and will continue to be, but he is worth more to other teams that aren’t growing their own aces. We need to commit the bucks to something we can’t seem to produce ourselves.

    • Brian Walton says:

      It is an interesting dilemma.

      In an ideal world, I tend to believe a team should hold onto a few select anchor players, ideally a mix of pitchers and position players. They have already decided on Molina and Holliday. No pitchers have their kind of deals.

      Paying Greinke money to Waino could still fit within their payroll if they wanted to go that way. It may not be their best business decision, however.

      • crdswmn says:

        I don’t think Waino deserves Greinke money. I wouldn’t give him more than 5/105. Greinke is two years younger and has a better injury history. If I were doing the negotiating I would emphasize this.

        Chris Carpenter won the Cy Young at the age of 30. Waino is 31. Carp has had more injuries and has held up very well. There is no reason to think Waino will give less value just because of his age.

    • crdswmn says:

      This idea that a team must have all younger. cheaper players is just really short sighted and wrong. There has to be a mix of younger players and some veterans. This is just plain old common sense. Fortunately, I think the Cardinals know that, but many of their fans apparently don’t. All I ever hear is get rid of the older players and go with the younger players. Bad, bad idea.

      • blingboy says:

        I agree that mix of old and young is good. I also agree with Brian’s comment that an established ace and overall clutch stud like Wainy is a key to a rotation. Let me try putting my position like this: If its one or the other, I think we’d be better off investing the big/long term money in a shortstop.

        • crdswmn says:

          And what shortstop would that be? Spending that kind of money means you better get a pretty damn good one. Andrus doesn’t become a FA unitl 2015. Tulowitski already has the big contract. Name one you think is worth that kind of money and is or will be available in 2014 and I will take your argument more seriously.

          • blingboy says:

            Everybody is available, potentially. Andrus would work. Tulo is expensive, some money would have to come along, in exchange for something juicy coming from us or course. On the less extavagent side, Alexei Ramirez the White Sox guy, has the glove and enough O. There is the other Ramirez, in LA. Well, maybe not. The point is, if the payroll money is available, it opens up all the possibilities.

            I’d be willing to agree that if an internal solution materializes PDQ it would be a godsend.

            • crdswmn says:

              If you could get the Rangers to trade for him, which I doubt, he won’t be available until 2015. By that time we will have a better idea of what we have on the farm and whether any are future shortstop material. Tulo has a monster contract that I would not take on if you held a gun to my head and not likely to be traded by the Rockies anyway. The White Sox have made it clear they intend to keep Ramirez. Hanley is not worth the money. He is streaky and has an attitude problem.

              • blingboy says:

                You are underestimating Mo.

                • crdswmn says:

                  You really think Mo would trade for Tulo with his injury history and a contract for the next 7 years? Even with money relief that is too long. If he did, he should be fired. And I can tell you that any trade for Ramirez or anyone else is going to cost a lot of our precious young pitching that everyone is drooling over. Keep them, keep Waino and make do with what we have until an internal shortstop option materializes. The shortstop market is woefully bad.

                  • Brian Walton says:

                    Remember that a shortstop does not have to be “on the market” to be acquired.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      I was considering the trade market as well. The best shortstops are either too expensive or unavailable.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      My point is that we don’t know who might be available in the right deal.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      We know who is good enough to be worth the big money not being paid to Waino, that is the deal bling wants to make, and that is a very short list. Anyone lesser is not a good trade off for Waino.

                      If you are just talking about trading for an average SS, then the idea of letting Waino walk to get a SS is meaningless.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      To be clear, I was not suggesting the Cards let Waino walk. I was just pointing out that they could trade pitching prospects for a shortstop whose identity could be a surprise. That would make keeping Waino more important (fewer potential replacements).

                  • crdswmn says:

                    Right, I agree, but the original premise bling presented was to let Waino walk and use the money to get a SS. That is the argument I was responding to. And giving up pitching prospects to get a SS makes it foolish to give up Waino as well, which is the other point I have been trying to make to bling.

      • Bw52 says:

        I don`t have a problem having veterans and young players. I have a problem with the amounts that might be given to said players.I wonder if overpaying player X will stop the team from being able to fix a unexpected need that pops up.
        Bling said it best.Commit the big bucks to something we can`t seem to produce ourselves.Right now the Cards seem to be producing pitchers and OFs and 1B and a bunch of young 3B prospects.We have a crapload of younger players heading upwards.If Wainwright and Chris Carpenter regress or stagnate and the younger arms show continued maturity and improvement it would be fooolish to spent a huge amount on a declined veteran arm.Thats common sense…………………………… !!!!!!!!!

        So for those that “theys” that think about the issue of money others need to remember they have the right to express their opinion also.I thought all opinions are welcome here………………

  8. Brian Walton says:

    I find this conversation a most interesting contrast to the segment of Cardinals fans hoping Kyle Lohse will fall back into the team’s lap. I have to assume that none of the recent commenters here would pay Lohse, but I am curious about that..

    • crdswmn says:

      I haven’t thought about it because I don’t think it will happen.

    • blingboy says:

      It would depend on the definition of “fall back into the team’s lap”. I’m not against Mo taking advantage of the situation somehow. In some way, shape or form we would have to get value for losing the pick and pool money. I should hope Mo would value that highly. For that reason I can’t see a one year deal making any sense.

      I could see a possible scenario where the Cards decide Wainy will just be to big of a commitment, and go with Kyle for the veteran presense instead. Would have to be less years and less money, way less.

      I’m just all about getting a shortstop somehow, as the top priority. If Mo works a deal trading for that AAA guy of the Rangers, who would be cheap for a while, then the money could be used for Wainy instead.

  9. crdswmn says:

    Brian, do you know what the status of Alex Mejia is? I know he tore his ACL back in August, but will he be ready to play early enough in the 2013 season to get most of a season?

    I think our shortstop problem is going to have to be solved internally. Mejia may be our best option if he comes back effective.

  10. Nutlaw says:

    If I were the Cardinals, I’d rather shell out money for Wainwright than for a SS. Young pitchers are exceedingly unpredictable and old shortstops make for bad fielders, so don’t go that route! Keep the veteran pitcher and trade the prospect pitchers for a prospect SS.

    • crdswmn says:

      Agree. It is not practical or wise to toss out the known in favor of the unknown. Waino is a known quantity, elite pitching in hand as opposed to “maybe” pitching.

    • blingboy says:

      As I said above, and previously, If Mo could get Profar, then the money could be used for Wainy. That is a possibility.

      An internal candidate emerging soon is anther possibility.

      Obtaining a proven shortstop who is expensive is the other possibility.

      I see no reason why Mo should not be considering and pursuing all of the above. As far as I am concerned, he has a year to act one way or another. We have enough resources to put together a killer rotation which ever comes to pass.

      • crdswmn says:

        Profar is arguably the top prospect in baseball. He would come with a huge price tag, probably Miller, Rosenthal, Martinez at least and maybe Taveras as well. Are you willing to pay it?

          • crdswmn says:

            Then cross Profar off your list.

            An established shortstop who is good (Andrus, A.Ramirez) will cost you at least two of the three pitchers, plus a position player or two.

            Any way you look at it, trading for a SS is likely to cost you several of the young pitchers. If you let Waino go too, there goes the rotation. Otherwise you wait until Andrus is a FA in 2015 (assuming he isn’t extended before then) and even then you are competing against teams with more money.

            Better be careful what you wish for.

          • blingboy says:

            Taveras is what the Rangers would want, because a corner OF with pop is what they need. I don’t think I’d do it, even straight up, because we need him too, and his projected career production would have to be off the chart. The idea would be to use our strength, which is pitching. Perhaps Craig could be a piece. Or some sort of three way trade that would get them what they would need out of it.

            By the middle of the season, or so, a couple of our pitching prospects will have more major league track record, and hopefully, enhanced value, as the market seems to be valuing that very highly right now.. Like I said, no hurry.

            • crdswmn says:

              Yeah, but you trade away our pitching prospects, plus you let Waino walk, then what kind of rotation do you have left? Doesn’t seem worth it to me. We need to keep the pitching more than we need to blow the entire wad on a SS. Robbing Peter to pay Paul.

              • blingboy says:

                Well, the idea is if we use prospects to acquire Profar, then the payroll money is available to sign Wainy. I still wouldn’t think BDW will go 5/100 though. Seperate issue, but they could interact.

                • crdswmn says:

                  Okay, but now you have changed the premise of your argument which was to give up Waino to have money for a SS. So, if you are willing to pay Waino, then you will have to give up the pitching prospects to get a SS. That would cost at least two of Miller, Rosenthal and Martinez, plus at least one position player for anyone worth getting.

                  My point is that pitching is more of a risk and therefore you are better off keeping as much as you can, and going with a cheaper options at SS. Make do with Kozma, Jackson, Furcal, et al. until an internal SS option becomes available.

                  • blingboy says:

                    For us, shortstops seem to be more of a risk, and I’m not changing my premise. I also don’t think it would have to involve more than one of those three. There are other pieces, potentially. Lynn for one, 18 game winning all star. There is Motte. Jay. Adams, Kelly, Freese, Carpenter, Wacha. Who knows. We have a lot going for us, but no shortstop.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Pitching is the hot commodity now. Most teams will be looking to get our pitching. Jay, Adams. Freese, Carpenter are not going to get you an elite SS except packaged with a couple of pitching prospects. Wacha can’t be traded until after mid season and I doubt he will be known enough to be worth what Miller, Rosenthal or Martinez would bring. Lynn isn’t worth as much as you think he is, and neither is Kelly. I think maybe your idea of what our position guys are worth is a little elevated. If the Indians wanted 4 prospects for Asdrubal Cabrera, what do you think an elite SS would require? I think you need to be a little more realistic.

                    • blingboy says:

                      I am talking about a package that includes either Miller or Rosenthal. As I remember, the 4 prospect price tag was assuming top level prospects without any ML experience. Prospect level guys with some successful ML track record are much more highly valued. For that reason, Profar’s value would not be enhanced, while Miller, Rosey or any of the others mentioned would be enhanced.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Profar has more major league service time than Miller. And you are quite wrong that it would only require one pitching prospect to get an elite SS. For Profar it would take much more.

                    • Nutlaw says:

                      I’m going to agree that the team could probably get a reasonable prospect at shortstop who would soon provide an upgrade at the major league level without giving up two of Miller, Rosenthal, and Martinez. Maybe they couldn’t get the best prospect in the game, but they could get someone solid for one near-major league ready starting pitcher.

    • blingboy says:

      Nutlaw, do you think DeWit will pay Wainy $20M a year for 5 years?

      • Nutlaw says:

        I think that he would pay Wainy $17M a year for five years, at least, to tie him up with Holliday on a yearly basis. There seems to be a lot of money pouring into baseball. I don’t think that a $20M/year contract will look very bad six years from now.

  11. blingboy says:

    La Roche has ended up re-signing with the Nationals. Not looking good for Lohse. I saw it rumored that he hasn’t recieved a single offer yet.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      You guys are a little hyped up…………..on other teams “hyped up players”……… answer this question….what kind of team are you when you have an adversarial relationship to all your players? Wainwright is hot over a few things……….. he will choose to compete for his legacy if he doesn’t get some respect…………….. all the talk is for you guys…….. we are in the league……we participate in the market……… if Adam isn’t a franchise player…….who is……..????? Forget about Lohse……. he will be signed to a 3 yr deal…….. who knows where? I bet somebody does………..

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