Yadier Molina is set to remain with the Cardinals for the next three seasons.
As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network first reported on Thursday night, the St. Louis Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina appear to be close to finalizing a three-year contract extension.
Molina, who has been negotiating intently with the Cardinals over the past week and had threatened to cut off negotiations if they weren’t completed by the start of the regular season, is set to receive between $55 and $65 million under the new agreement:
If his salary ends up being near the upper end of Rosenthal’s projections, Molina will be the highest-paid catcher in baseball. Buster Posey currently leads all MLB catchers in AAV ($19.875M), while Brian McCann ($17M) and Russell Martin ($16.4M) also have higher AAVs than Molina under Molina’s current deal.
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The deal makes it extremely likely that Molina, who broke into the majors with the Cardinals in 2004, will end his career wearing the birds on the bat. While Molina, who’s played 1,611 major-league games, almost surely won’t even approach Stan Musial‘s 3,026 games or Lou Brock‘s 2,289, he’s got a great opportunity to move up that leaderboard and definitely has a shot to pass Ozzie Smith (1,990) and end his career with the third-most games played in a Cardinals uniform.
The Molina extension certainly could make prospect Carson Kelly a more viable trade candidate as time goes on. Kelly, who is ranked as the top catching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, is likely to start eating into Molina’s playing time during the second and third seasons of the contract as things stand now.
But if either of the early-round draftees who the Cardinals selected in 2016–Jeremy Martinez or Andrew Knizner–begins to impress to the point where they look like a surefire future big-league starter, then perhaps the Cardinals could instead elect to shop Kelly while pursuing premium trade candidates.