St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said earlier in the offseason he’d either finish his career as a Cardinal or retire, but amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the veteran catcher has changed his tune.
What was once an assumed conclusion to Cardinals legend Yadier Molina‘s impressive career has now changed to a potentially ugly finish as St. Louis fans may have to see Molina finish his time in MLB wearing another jersey.
Before this week, St. Louis figured their franchise catcher would work out some type of deal to remain with the Cardinals for the remainder of this career — because he said as much back in January.
However, according to Marly Rivera of ESPN, Molina has found a new perspective during the coronavirus pandemic and is now willing to consider playing for another team — should the Cardinals choose not to re-sign him.
“I previously said that if it wasn’t with St. Louis, that I would go home. If we were unable to come to an extension agreement, that I would retire. But the situation with this pandemic has changed everything. Right now, I’m thinking of playing two more years,” Molina told ESPN during a phone interview.
“Obviously, St. Louis is my first option. But if they don’t sign me, then I’m willing to go into free agency. This situation has changed my mentality, and all I want to do is play.”
Now, full disclosure, I grew up a Cubs fan in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago during the prime of Molina’s career. I can say without question Molina is easily the best catcher I’ve ever personally seen behind the plate, however, I’m not sure he’s a Hall of Fame level player. If I had a vote I’d probably say no, but as I mentioned early, I have a clear bias.
However, whether or not Molina is a future Hall of Famer, he is the Cardinals’ most popular player and probably the most obvious choice should St. Louis add another face to their collection of former great players recognized on their outfield walls.
A nine-time Gold-Glove winner as well as a nine-time All-Star, few players in Cardinals history as much hardware as Molina and their names are Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith. That’s it, those are the only two players more decorated than Yadi in St. Louis history. And only Ivan Rodriguez and Johnny Bench have won more Gold Gloves as catchers than Molina, he’s the best catcher this generation has seen.
People may forget how good Molina was during the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Cardinals, batting above .300 and finishing in the top five of MVP voting both seasons. Molina was in some ways one of the few stars remaining on the Cardinals roster after the Albert Pujols trade and remained a key contributor during St. Louis’ World Series run without Pujols in 2012.
If the Cardinals were to not re-sign the 38-year-old, St. Louis fans would never forgive the front office.
Molina told Rivera it’s about the reality of the business for him:
“The reality is that this business is difficult for a 38-year-old catcher; my window is smaller. But I feel ready to keep on playing. I’m in good physical shape. My knees are good; my mind is great. Physically, I’m fine. That’s why I’ve made the decision to play two more years.”
“I had in mind that if St. Louis didn’t sign me, I would retire after this season, at 38. With this situation, obviously, we probably won’t have a chance to play a full season; we may not be able to play a lot of games. I think it will feel like unfinished business. Any player that says that they’re not going through a difficult time and not worried about what the 2020 season will look like is lying.”
With talks of an MLB season potentially starting in the next month or so, expect things between Molina and the Cardinals to pick up as soon as the offseason works continue. But picturing Yadier Molina in another uniform feels wrong, even if you grew up hating the guy like me.