ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - The St. Louis Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina beat an opening day deadline the player set to reach agreement on a contract extension, with both sides agreeing to a 3-year $60 million deal that could mean the fan favorite will spend his entire career wearing the birds on the bat.
The agreement came after Molina made it clear in recent weeks that unless a deal was in place before the start of the season, he was willing to play out the final season under contract, test free agency, and potentially leave the only franchise he’s ever known.
Molina is about to start his 15th campaign behind the plate and is coming off a 2016 season that saw career highs in games played, doubles and hits. It notably saw his streak of winning Gold Gloves snapped after 8 straight years of being honored as the best defensive catcher in baseball.
That snub could have been the spark behind Molina’s dominant performance in this spring’s World Baseball Classic where he earned Pool MVP honors while leading Puerto Rico to the championship game against Team USA.
The agreement gives the Cardinals a valuable trade chip in the process if they want to use it. Top catching prospect Carson Kelly, already slated to begin 2017 with AAA Memphis, would now appear blocked from a starting role in St. Louis unless Molina went down with an injury. Many observers believe Kelly is ready for the majors now, despite only converting to catching from third base in 2014.