The St. Louis Cardinals signed catcher Yadier Molina to a one-year, $9 million contract Tuesday, keeping the nine-time Gold Glove winner with the only organization for which he’s played for an 18th season.
The 38-year-old Molina hit .262 with four home runs in 42 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, his last under a $60 million, three-year deal. Molina ended up making a prorated $7,407,407 of his $20 million salary last year, and some thought that he might finally step away from the game after.
Instead, he agreed to return alongside his longtime batterymate, 39-year-old Adam Wainwright, who agreed to an $8 million deal for the upcoming season as they make another push for what would be Molina’s third World Series title.
“We are pleased to announce that Yadier has agreed to continue his legacy career as a member of the Cardinals and remain a centerpiece of our team,” Cardinals president John Mozeliak said. “His experience, leadership, work ethic and ability to help bring out the best in those around him are special qualities.
“We know,” Mozeliak added, “that there is no one more driven than Yadi to get the Cardinals another shot at the title.”
Molina has made nine All-Star teams and appeared in 2,025 games for the Cardinals, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2000 out of Ladislao Martinez High School in his native Puerto Rico. He was in the big leagues by 2004 and never left, becoming one of the most dependable backstops at one of the game’s most grueling positions.
He is third on the franchise list in games played behind Hall of Famers Stan Musial (3,026) and Lou Brock (2,289).
“I’m back!” Molina posted in a simple message on his Instagram feed.
Molina is a career .281 hitter with 160 home runs, and he’s played in at least 110 games every season but his first and this past season, which was shortened by the pandemic. But he’s best known for his defense behind the dish, trailing only Ivan Rodriguez (13) and Johnny Bench (10) for the most Gold Gloves won by a catcher.
He just finished playing for Criollos de Caguas, Puerto Rico’s representative in the Caribbean Series, where they lost to Cardinals teammate Carlos Martinez and his Dominican Republic team in the championship. Molina wound up hitting .192 while catching five of the six games and serving as the designated hitter in the other one.
Molina became a free agent for the first time after last season, and he reportedly drew interest from the Yankees, Mets and several other clubs. Molina also said at one point that he would consider retirement if the right offer did not materialize.
His return solidifies the lineup for the Cardinals, whose pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training Feb. 17 in Jupiter, Florida. They have been aggressive in the offseason as they aim for another playoff run with the biggest move their high-profile trade with the Colorado Rockies for eight-time Gold Glove-winner Nolen Arenado.
Not long after that trade was complete, Arenado said: “Hopefully we get the best catcher back and we keep moving.”
The Cardinals got him back Tuesday for one more season.
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