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Yadier Molina likely to become one of the highest-paid catchers ever

Feb 23, 2012, 5:52 PM EDT

Yadier Molina AP

Just three catchers in big-league history have signed contracts worth in excess of $10 million per season. That’s about to change.

Yadier Molina heads a class of four free-agent-to-be catchers, all of whom could find themselves in eight-figure territory with big 2012 seasons. Molina is probably the one sure thing in the bunch to draw that much money, but Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli and Russell Martin are candidates as well.

Brian McCann, a free agent after 2013, is also likely to join that club if the Braves want to sign him to an extension before then.

Molina, 29, rates the highest of the class of free agents mostly because of defense, but he also had his best season offensively last year, coming in at .305/.349/.465 in 475 at-bats. He nearly doubled his previous career high in homers by hitting 14. Durability also weighs in his favor. While he battled injuries earlier in his career, he’s now topped 130 games three straight seasons (he failed to do so in any of his first four years).

The Cardinals have been trying to lock Molina up with little success so far. His last deal was a huge bargain for the team, as he’ll have earned a modest $21.25 million for what would have been his three arbitration years and first two free agency years. He clearly wants to make up for that this time around.

And the Cardinals can’t claim poverty in this case, not with Albert Pujols‘ salary off the books. They’ll free up another $32 million as the contracts of Lance Berkman, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook expire after the season.

Molina may never again hit as well as he did in 2011, but he’s a top-five catcher anyway. Baseball-reference WAR and Fangraphs WAR agree that he ranks fourth among catchers over the last three years, trailing Joe Mauer, McCann and Napoli (though B-ref WAR has him tied with Carlos Ruiz).

And that would seem to be worth $11 million-$12 million per year, given that Molina is still in his prime. For as often as they get dinged up, catchers don’t age too badly, generally. If the Cards can sign him for $44 million over four years, they should do so now.

Oh, and in case you wondering, here’s that list of biggest contracts for catchers:

Joe Mauer (Twins) – 8 yrs, $184 mil – $23 mil per year
Mike Piazza (Mets) – 7 yrs, $91 mil – $13 mil
Jason Kendall (Pirates) – 6 yrs, $60 mil – $10 mil
Jorge Posada (Yankees) – 4 yrs, $52.3 mil – $13.1 mil
Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers) – 5 yrs, $42.5 mil – $8.5 mil
Ivan Rodriguez (Tigers) – 4 yrs, $40 mil – $10 mil
Jason Varitek (Red S0x) – 4 yrs, $40 mil – $10 mil
Joe Mauer (Twins) – 4 yrs, $34 mil – $8.5 mil

  1. marshmallowsnake - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    That is pretty good for someone who has had one decent year at the plate.

    • thefalcon123 - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:15 PM

      Look up what the average catcher hits and re-visit your statement.

      Molina has been an above average hitter at his position 3 of teh last 4 years.

      • marshmallowsnake - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:46 PM

        I guess I just see it as baseball as a whole. If all catchers hit .210 with 5 HR and OBPS of .500 and I get up there and hit .225 with 10 HR and a OBPS of .600, I should be paid millions? I doubt it.

      • stex52 - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:19 PM

        If you can field a slider in the dirt, calm down a pitcher who is coming unhinged to get him out of the inning, throw a bullet to second with no time to think, get out of that crouch to field a bunt, and take about fifty foul tips in the face and twenty bat taps on the head a season.

        Then yes, you deserve the money.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:16 PM

      Exactly. He has decent averages but a .734 lifetime OPS and a career-high of 14 home runs but that shouldn’t equal elite money.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:43 PM

        It should when a .734 OPS is well above average for your position and you’re one of the best defenders at that position as well.

        Further, $10MM-$15MM hasn’t been elite money in many many years.

  2. okwhitefalcon - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    Geez, another Molina thread?

    Anyway…

    I don’t think 44 over 4 will get it done, not a chance.

  3. Ari Collins - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    Seems like half of those didn’t work out too well. Granted, catchers tend to reach free agency at older ages than other positions, and free agency generally brings you a poor return. But still, that list would give me pause, especially when the free agent pool is going to be filled with catchers next year. You could probably get Chris Iannetta for something like $18MM over three years, and that guy’s pretty good.

  4. westcoastredbird - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    I don’t think there’s a better catcher in the game. You don’t want him to leave like Albert er “Dinero Grande”. Give him the jack he deserves! Lohse and Southbrook’s contract are up this year. We don’t need another cluster year (potential free agent speaking) like last year.

  5. natsattack - Feb 24, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    Red Sox isn’t spelled with an “0.”

  6. tommyrob4780 - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    10 mill not worth it maybe 8 but not 10

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