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The Yadier Molina extension is a go: five years, $75 million

Feb 29, 2012, 8:46 AM EDT

Yadier Molina AP

They’ve been working on it for a while, but Heyman reports that they’re done working: the Cardinals and Yadier Molina have reached an agreement on a five year, $75 million contract extension.  Rosenthal first had the outline of the deal on Monday.

It’s the second biggest deal ever for a catcher behind Joe Mauer‘s.  With Albert Pujols out the door, the Cardinals had no choice but to lock up Molina.  And given how hard it is to find even a good catcher, a great a defensive catcher and well above-average offensive catcher like Molina was going to cash in huge if he hit the market.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Feb 29, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Seems like a lot of money to give a soon to be 30 year old catcher who has had only 1 truly exceptional offensive year….although nobody can dispute his defensive greatness. Good for Y. Molina though. I doubt he could have done better on the open market.

    • tcostant - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:17 AM

      Way to much money / years for a cather. These guys are like RB in the NFL, once they get to 32 (30 for RB’s) they hitting game goes way down!

  2. ditka96 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    Before everyone starts posting sabermetrics on this post to say he is not worth it I want to get this in. A catcher that does what Molina does is invaluable. He is the catcher that the pitcher starts sweating when they don’t see his name in the lineup card. He IS worth it even if he hits .220 so stick your sabermetrics!

    • drmonkeyarmy - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      You should embrace at least a bit of sabermetrics. I was the same as you way back when….however, they can really provide a nice adjunct to traditional statistics and provide a greater depth of understanding into the “nooks and crannies” of the game.

      • ditka96 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:26 AM

        I do look at the sabermetrics I just feel that too often that people come on here and judge the worth of a player on that alone and don’t consider what someone brings to a clubhouse or in a catchers case how much they help a pitching staff.

    • phillyphreak - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      I think the saber crowd would definitely make an argument that he is worth it.

    • stlouis1baseball - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:40 AM

      You hit the proverbial nail on the head Ditka. One better…his tutelage of the young arms coming up is difficult to even put a price on. Add to this the fact the dude is in the lineup every day doing what he does (field general with no peers in my opinion)…and the signing is a no-brainer.
      His durability is un-matched. I have seen him catch 15 innings of a 17 inning game and take over for Albert at 1st base the last two innings to give HIM a break.
      Guess who was behind the plate the following afteroon at 1:00 P.M.? The guy is a stud.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:45 AM

      Uhh, sabermetrics show he is worth it. Defense is actually valued MORE in sabermetric thinking than in traditional. Sabermetricians also care less about batting average than traditional thinkers.

      • jtorrey13 - Feb 29, 2012 at 12:19 PM

        Ari, this is just a straw man argument. Do you think people actually do research on sabermetric analysis before commenting?

        The longest and most nuanced:

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/cardinals-extend-yadier-molina-at-premium-rate/

        A hometown and sabermetrically inclined perspective:

        http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2012/2/28/2830225/yadier-molina-contract-extension-cardinals

        Baseball Prospectus referencing Nate Silver’s research from 2005:

        http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16125

        Yes, the Baseball Prospectus article may linger a bit too long on Mauer, but at the same time, that is the underlying risk to every single long term contract – injury, be it a freak one or not.

        Here are the takeaways: Is the contract given to Molina team friendly? No. Is it fair? Yes. Does it have risk? Of course.

        So, now there is some sabermetric analysis. If you want to keep imagine sabermetricians as the Wicked Witches of the West and your non-sabermetric life as sunshine, lollipops and rainbows as you pursue justice for the “underrated” baseball players of the world, then enjoy the chase Chief Wiggum. Enjoy the chase.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 29, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        Nicely put.

      • phillyphreak - Mar 1, 2012 at 12:30 PM

        jtorrey13

        You must not be familiar with Ari’s comments around here……

      • phillyphreak - Mar 1, 2012 at 9:17 PM

        Nevermind jtorrey. Misinterpreted post.

  3. ame123 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    Jeff Mathis is also a great defensive catcher. Lets pay him 75 million too.

    • proudlycanadian - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:22 AM

      Only if the 75 million is from your pocket.

    • thefalcon123 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      True, catchers never come up to the plate, thus their offense is meaningless. Wonderful insight ame123.

      Over the last four years, Molina has hit .291/.348/.396…well above average for a catcher and very nice for arguably the best fielding catcher in the game.

      Over that same span, Mathis hit .193/.254/.292 So really, any insults hurled your way at this ridiculous comparison are very deserved.

      • ame123 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:46 AM

        How about his career .268/.327/.361 prior to last season (or you think he’s found his bat at age 30?). Have fun paying a guy who’s a < .700 OPS hitter 15 Million/year.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:46 AM

        Defense. It’s important.

      • phillyphreak - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:08 AM

        Defense. It’s important.

      • salvomania - Feb 29, 2012 at 12:51 PM

        Ame123, I’d say the recent four-year numbers are a lot more relevant than his “career numbers entering last year”—which conveniently leave out his in-his-prime age-28 season of 2011 while including his first three seasons, at age 21-23, which were his worst offensive seasons.

        And no, it’s not that he’s “found his bat at age 30″ (he was only 28 last year when he put up an OPS+ of 126) because, as noted above, during his ages 25-28 seasons he put up a .291/.348/.396 line, good for an OPS+ of 102.

        Over the last four years, the only full-time catchers (avg 100g/year at C) who’ve outhit Molina by OPS+ are Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, and Geovany Soto.

        During that span those three have combined for 3 seasons in which they’ve started 130+ games at C, something Molina has done each of the past 3 years.

        So decent bat, with superior durability and defense.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 29, 2012 at 6:18 PM

        Very well argued, salvo.

  4. thefalcon123 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    That seems pretty steep. If he hits like 2011 and keeps up his defense, great deal. If he hits like 2010, then the Cardinals overpayed big time. Odds are, he’ll split the difference, hit like 2009 and the Cardinals would have overpayed a little.

    • phillyphreak - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      If that turns out to be the case, I think overpaying by a little bit is fine. Particularly if the metrics still undervalue catcher defense. Maybe he’s even more valuable defensively then. It’s interesting. Big money but not a bad deal.

  5. stex52 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Based on his WAR for 2011, you could support the 15 MM$/yr. Whether this is a trend or an outlier, we will see. I must say I was surprised by how high it was, even though I think I have established myself as a big believer in the intangibles of catching.

    As Paper said in a previous thread, they can afford it because they didn’t invest their entire excess cash flow for the next ten years in Pujols. My gut feel is that the best catchers seem to hang on for quite a while. Even if this turns out as an overpay, it is worth a lot of money to have a solid player in that position for the next five years.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:49 AM

      Molina was worth 3 wins a year over the last four years, which comes out to about $15MM. Then take into account the fact that last year has to be weighed a little more in any projection, and it comes out to only a small overpay.

      (And, as people say, it’s likely that our defensive stats are underrating great defensive catchers.)

      • paperlions - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:25 AM

        The thing is that everyone knows that catcher defense is still very poorly measured and that good catcher defense is greatly under-valued by current metrics. So if extant versions of WAR suggest that his deal is “worth it”, then it most likely is worth it or a good deal (assuming he stays healthy).

        Any announcement about whether or not the deal starts now? There were reports that the deal would over-ride his 2012 contract.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:56 AM

        Huh. I hadn’t heard that. Would be a better deal for STL if it starts this year, for sure.

  6. chc4 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Brian McCann is counting down the days til his current contract is up. If Molina is worth $75m, then he is worth $100m+.

    • stlouis1baseball - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      Hahaha! That’s funny Chc. So you haven’t seen Yadi play huh?

    • foreverchipper10 - Feb 29, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      I sure hope not.

  7. gldfngr38 - Feb 29, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Oh Look… Jon Heyman getting credit for something someone else reported on 3 days ago. He didn’t add anything that Rosenthal didn’t already talk about. Nearly verbatim to all other reports on this subject.

    In other words: Jon Heyman sucks.

  8. bjscher02 - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    lets also not forget how little we paid him for all the rest of the years he has been with the cardinals. take an average of what we paid him and what we will pay him and its not too bad of a number.

    • stex52 - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      I’m not sure that I go to much for the argument that you overpay to make up for the past. That has gotten some teams into some pretty crippling contracts. But I will stick by my logic that even if it is an overpay, he is still is a very valuable commodity. They have made worse deals.

      And let me say this first. I am not slighting McCann. He is an asset to any team, as is Molina. But whether he gets more than Molina will be very market-dependent. Molina caught a very favorable break in his negotiating position. McCann could well get less.

    • ame123 - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:40 AM

      Haha, what an awesome rationalization.

      • stlouis1baseball - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:53 AM

        Ame: Lemme’ guess…Cubs fan?

      • Ari Collins - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:57 AM

        Cubs fan or not, he’s right. Getting a good or bad deal on a previous contract doesn’t make either party “owe” the other party anything.

      • stlouis1baseball - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        Ari:
        I am not disputing that.
        Previous contracts (good or bad)…are just that (previous contracts). My comment was based solely on the pent up anger that seems to be emanating from him. So…my guess is…he’s a Cubs fan. I guess he could be a fan of another NL Central team.
        Either way…he seems to be bothered far too much by it.
        On a separate note: Not sure what you are getting at either.
        You posted that you felt he was worth it anyway.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:55 AM

        Right. He’s worth the new contract. But it has literally nothing to do with the amount he was paid previously, which has no bearing on any future contracts.

  9. rooney24 - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    The money sounds a little high at first thought. But, as with most contracts, you are paying partly for what he has already done and partly for what he will do. And, if you weren’t going to spend an insane amount on Albert (correct decision), you need to spread some of that money around and keep your other core players.

  10. joshfrancis50 - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    I just don’t think it’s in the Molinas’ DNA to age well.

    • salvomania - Feb 29, 2012 at 3:19 PM

      Bengie Molina was his teams’ starting catcher all 5 years from age 30-34, averaging 118 games behind the plate per year, and hit .282./.311/.446 for an OPS+ of 95 while averaging 18 hr a year—all figures above his career averages.

      Bengie fell off last year at age 35, but the Cardinals only need his brother Yadier to be decent through age 34—-or just through age 33 if the extension does indeed preempt his existing 2012 contract.

      And for his career through age 29, Yadi was a better hitter than either of his brothers.

  11. fearlessleader - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    It’s not my money, of course, but it’s worth a solid $10 mil to me not to have to endure the same sort of stupid drama we did with Albert last year. (“WILL THIS BE YADI’S LAST PICKOFF IN A CARDINAL UNIFORM?”) Blargh. Thanks, Mo and Molina, for sparing us the heartache; we’re all still a little raw from the last round.

    • okwhitefalcon - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      Amen to all the above fearlessleader.

      Yadierwegoagain avoided.

  12. bjscher02 - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    just did the math on yadier and his previous contracts, showing that it is a good deal no matter how you look at it. 2005-2012= 23 mil $ total, add 75 mil$ for the next 5 years, thats 98 mil dollars for 13 years of service = an average of around 7.5 mil dollars per year. (that is if the site i got my info from is all correct) not too bad for a solid hitter and the best defensive catcher in the game. So personally i’d say we did well. GO CARDS!

    • ame123 - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      LOL.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 29, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      Math fail.

  13. chiadam - Feb 29, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Horrible contract.

  14. spudchukar - Feb 29, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    If you watch Molina play every day then you learn to appreciate his defensive wizardry. Nobody knows this better than Mike Matheny. He may have had some influence in the decision. Plus, under McGwire’s tutelage, Molina has learned to look for certain pitches, and drive the ball, which has resulted in his increase in power numbers.

    Defensive sabermetric numbers are generally unreliable, and offer little light, especially at the catcher position. Some have noted a lesser percentage in Molina’s throwing numbers in 2011, but a closer inspection indicates a drastic reduction in attempts. Base stealers and managers have learned over the years and have put the brakes on.

    Molina is only 29, and in good shape. He does not have the weight issues his older two brothers do, and still they played with a degree of success late into their thirties, so if the genes are any indication a five-year deal is hardly risky. Plus, he has avoided serious injury, and has no lingering concerns.

    Look for Molina to maintain his unparalleled defense, continue to increase his power numbers, and earn every penny of his new deal. The only real question is whether he can get his steal numbers up to double digits.

  15. jwbiii - Feb 29, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    Catcher defense is a very difficult thing to measure. There is one part, controlling the running game, which is fairly easy to quantify and a whole bunch of things which are not: mentoring/handling the pitching staff, pitch calling, pitch framing, pitch blocking, blocking the plate, and I’m sure a few other things I’m forgetting. Chasing foul pop ups, maybe.

    If you control for the pitcher and season, and compare a catcher to the team’s other catchers, you should get a good picture of what the overall defensive value of a particular catcher is versus Team Others. Over the course of Molina’s career, pitchers do have a lower ERA when pitching to Molina versus pitching to Team Others (4.10 to 4.23) although his FIP is slightly higher (4.43 to 4.34). Yadier Molina is excellent at controlling the running game (this is not news, right?). Defense, including controlling the running game, is a part of ERA but not FIP. Using Tom Tango’s linear weights, over the matched innings, Molina has saved about 87 runs versus Team Others with his arm. However, the difference in earned runs allowed is only 45 runs. That means that in the other difficult or impossible to quantify defensive aspects of catching, Team Others is about 42 runs ahead of Molina.

    Team Others is composed of Jason LaRue (759 matched innings), Gary Bennett (694), Mike Matheny (331), Einar Diaz (298), Gerald Laird (221), Kelly Stinnett (193), Mike Mahoney (177), Matt Pagnozzi (114), Tony Cruz (95), Cody McKay (63), Bryan Anderson (44), Mark Johnson (39), Mike Rose (7), Steven Hill (4), Brian Esposito (1), David Freese (1!), and Nick Stavinoha (.3!).

    For Yadier Molina’s career, we’ve got over 3,000 matched innings. This is about the same number of innings as Andy Pettitte threw in his career, so it’s not a sample size issue.

    Yadier Molina’s defensive value is his throwing arm. The sum of all of his other defensive contributions is less than those of his teams’ other catchers.

    Method totally ripped off from Craig Wright in the 2009 Hardball Times Baseball Annual. His point was that while Mike Piazza had a lousy arm, the sum of his other defensive contributions compared favorably to his group of Team Others over the course of his career. The point is, if you do the easy to measure thing well, you get credit for doing all of the little things well (whether or not you actually do), and conversely, if you don’t do the easy to measure thing well, you don’t get credit for doing the little things well (whether or not you actually do).

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