The Cardinals Had No Choice But to Sign Yadier Molina to an Extension
The rules are different for icons. Should they be, though?
That is the question the St. Louis Cardinals will be forced to answer after reportedly signing their long-time backstop Yadier Molina to a three-year extension that will make him the highest-paid catcher on a per-year basis.
Yes, if reports are correct, he'll make more annual dollars than Buster Posey. And clearly, that doesn't make much sense.
The Cardinals are overpaying the 34-year-old because he is a franchise icon, a move atypical for the analytically-minded organization. Nevertheless, Molina bounced back nicely in 2016 from a down '15 season, and proved there is still something left in the tank.
For the first time since 2013, Molina finished with a batting average over .300 (.307), a gaudy .360 on-base percentage and an OPS of .787. Here is where he ranked among MLB catchers in the important offensive categories last year (minimum 300 plate appearances).
His exit velocity dropped to 86 mph in 2015, about 2 mph slower than his career average, but it came in at 88 mph last year, which led to his Isolated Power (ISO) jumping back up to .120 (from .080). His slugging percentage also increased to .427 after posting a .350 mark the year before.
And if you break down his first- and second-half splits, the numbers were even better.
Molina's numbers were better almost across the board, with only his walk rate going in a negative direction. He obviously became a more aggressive hitter in the second half, and as a result, saw his home-run-to-fly-ball rate increase from 2.7% to 9.0%.
Those are all encouraging numbers for a catcher entering the twilight of his career. He also showed a lot of spunk in the World Baseball Classic this spring, which is, of course, no guarantee of anything other than Molina is still a lot of fun to watch.
Make no mistake, this contract is probably not going to look so great when he's their backup catcher in a couple years, and they are paying for his past production.
Despite that, he still has something left in the tank, is an expert on handling a pitching staff, and is a St. Louis icon.
Sometimes, you have to pay a little extra for that.