If the Cardinals learned one thing from the Albert Pujols mess it's that they better do something NOW to sign Yadier Molina to a contract extension.
Because if they don't, they almost surely going to lose him when he hits the free agent market.
Molina is already in spring training camp. And he's already uttering Pujols-like comments about how he loves St. Louis and the Cardinals fans BUT... it's not up to him if the club is going to make an offer worthy of keeping him.
Let there be no doubt that the Angels are a serious option for Molina. They have an uncertain catching situation and, armed with their gigantic local television contract, they could probably find enough money in their sofa cushions to throw a contract Yadi's way. And wouldn't it be smart to bring in Pujols' best friend to keep Anaheim's new superstar happy? Molina says he still talks to Pujols every day. It doesn't exactly sound like he's over the whole situation about his pal splitting town.
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I'm suspicious in the same way I was that the Cardinals never REALLY intended to sign Pujols that they wouldn't be heartbroken if Yadi left.
There is no doubt that Molina is one of the best catchers in the game and that he's in his prime. But there is also little doubt that the Birds will probably have to offer Molina a contract that pays him handsomely well past his prime if they want him to stay.
Yadi's making $7 million this year and he's probably going to want a raise. I'm guessing that, based on his age and his likelihood of getting another prime contract that he's likely to want four or even five years. That means the minimum I could imagine him accepting would be four seasons and $35 million. That's probably going to mean $9 million a season for a 33-year-old catcher with balky knees.
On the plus side for the Cardinals, It's a lot easier to imagine biting the budget bullet of a $9 million contact for Molina at 33 than it is to imagine paying Pujols $25 million when he's 41 or 42. There are lots of reasons to keep him around. He's a fan favorite and he's more valuable than ever to the pitching staff because of the loss of Dave Duncan as pitching coach.
Like with Pujols, I hope that the Redbirds will find a way to keep a fan favorite in Cardinals red. But this time around, I'm bracing myself for the likelihood that they won't