Safe and Sound
Molina is extremely secure in his position heading into 2017, just as he has been for the past decade. The only question entering this season is whether he’ll maintain his same level of prolificacy (he played a career-high 147 games with 142 starts behind the plate in 2016) or begin to give way a bit to star prospect Carson Kelly. Seeing as the Cardinals signed Eric Fryer–who started just eight of the team’s first 75 games while beginning the season as Molina’s backup last year–to compete for the backup job in 2017, it’s certainly possible that Molina could play 130 games or more again if he remains healthy.
Of course, that’s a major “if” for Molina, who could be entering the final season of his contract depending on whether the Cardinals decide to pick up his option for 2018. He missed time with injuries during the three seasons prior to 2016, so recent history would suggest that he’s somewhat of an injury risk going forward. If Kelly comes up and performs well in extended duty this season, that could affect the Cardinals’ decision on whether to pay him $15 million in 2018 or give him a $2 million buyout.