The St. Louis Cardinals have apparently beaten the deadline.
According to multiple sources Thursday, the Cardinals have agreed to a three-year deal with catcher Yadier Molina, who had given them a Sunday to terms on a new contract. That’s when the Cardinals open the season against the Chicago Cubs.
Rosenthal also reported that the deal will make Molina the highest-paid catcher in baseball by average annual value, topping Buster Posey’s $18.5 million per year deal.
There has been no confirmation from the Cardinals or Molina that the deal is done.
Soon after news broke that a deal had been struck, Molina homered in the Cardinals’ exhibition game against the Memphis Redbirds, their Class AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.
Molina is beginning his 14th season with the Cardinals. He is a .285 career hitter and seven-time All-Star who has won eight Rawlings Gold Glove awards while serving as the Cardinals primary catcher.
Molina enjoyed one of the best offensive seasons of his career in 2016. He played in a career-high 147 games and batted .307 with 38 doubles, eight home runs and 58 RBIs. It was his fifth season with a .300 or better average. Since 2011, the Cardinals are 458-322 in games started by Molina.
Molina spoke with a small group of reporters at the Winter Warm-Up in January, explaining that he wanted to remain with the team. But he also acknowledged the business side of baseball, and earlier this week said he was prepared to test the free-agent waters if the Cardinals couldn’t negotiate a new deal.
Molina’s return will allow the Cardinals to be patient with top catching prospect Carson Kelly, who will play his first full season at Class AAA. Kelly, a second-round draft pick in 2012, converted to catcher from third base.
Kelly batted .289 with six homers and 32 RBIs in 96 games at Class AA Springfield and Memphis last year. He debuted with the Cardinals in September and registered his first major-league hit Sept. 5, a double against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
Return to bnd.com for more on this developing story.