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Yadi pulls an AlbertPosted Wednesday, February 22, 2012, at 7:01 AM
So, yesterday I wrote a column about Yadi that got quite a bit of response (e-mails, comments, tweets, etc.). Normally I don't follow up a column with another column on the same subject, but further comments on Tuesday left me some more to say.
When I wrote Tuesday's column I was quite pessimistic about the possibility Yadier Molina would return to the Cardinals. After listening to comments from Yadi's agent today, I'm all but certain we will be seeing the end of an era. After all, this is a game Cardinals fans have played before.
Right about this same time last year, former Cardinals slugger and would-have-been legend, Albert Pujols announced that there would be no negotiating during the season between he and the team as they attempted to find common ground in the search for an extension.
Yadi said Sunday that he had "learned a lot from watching Albert" and apparently that was one lesson he is taking to heart. Molina's agent Melvin Roman announced the decision Tuesday noting that if the Cardinals want Yadi back he will come back.
"Want" is the key word in that statement. There is no doubt that in the literal sense of the word the Cardinals want him to return. However, in the figurative sense of the word, will Yadi interpret an offer as a sufficient "want."
Like I said yesterday, my maximum price tag for Yadi, or most catchers for that matter, is in the vicinity of $9 million. I fear that what he views as his own ideal price tag is probably a ridiculous number. I'm sure it won't be Joe Mauer-esque ($23 million), but he could easily see himself worth $13-15 million. Given the Cardinals budget, that's just too much money to sink into a position that isn't traditionally filled with offensive explosions.
I'm not knocking Yadi's offensive abilities, but he's only hit .300 or above twice in his career and I don't know that that stellar 2011 season he put up wasn't a fluke. Yadi has always put up respectable offensive numbers for a catcher, but his true value has always been in defense. Defensively, he would be a hard act to follow.
One advantage to the Yadi situation that I didn't catch yesterday, is the fact that he does not have no-trade protection because he hasn't spent 10 years in the majors yet. I'm not saying a trade is the answer, only that it is certainly an avenue to shop. If the front office is reasonably sure they're not going to see eye-to-eye on the money, then I say shop him around. A team looking to get him in the door to throw some cash at him after the season might be willing to give up a piece worth having.
That being said, if he was to leave through free agency, he would have a lot of competition. While he would be perched atop the list, the market flooding with catchers would benefit the Cardinals. One guy in particular who will be available that I like is Mike Napoli.
Napoli is quite the force defensively and, as Cardinals fans know all too well, he can smack the leather off of a baseball. He even hit pretty well at Busch. During the World Series every time he walked to the plate you could see the fans cringe because they know all too well what he is capable of. Defenisively, he's not Yadi, but he would be a nice replacement.
.In 2011, Napoli batted .320/.414/.631 with 30 homeruns (plus an additional 3 HR in AAA). That is production no one expects from the catcher's spot in the lineup anywhere. A catcher who puts up slugger numbers would also continue to help fill whatever remains of the offensive gap post-Pujols. '
While scouts are predicting his average to take a drop, his HR and RBI totals are expected to rise on the belief that Napoli is a catcher beginning to reach his potential. In 2012 the Rangers will pay him just over $9 million and he will likely draw a salary considerably lower than Yadi will in free agency making him a more affordable option as well.
Maybe Napoli isn't the answer, but I just wanted to toss that out because he is a real possibility. That is, assuming the Rangers don't scoop him up in an extension beforehand and assuming the Cardinals don't reach an agreement with Molina. It's still possible, but if I were a betting man I'd keep the cash in my pocket.
The one thing I feel certain about, however, is that if they don't sign him before his self-imposed deadline, the team will never get him in free agency. Basically, what I'm saying is that in about 6 weeks we'll know what's going to happen.
In an unrelated note, I will be co-hosting the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour tonight (Feb. 22, 2012) at 9:30 p.m. CST alongside host Daniel Shoptaw of C70 At The Bat. You can log on live or listen to the archive later at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ivieleaguep... We will be talking about Spring Training and how some players are progressing and I was asked to talk a little about my experience covering the 2011 World Series.
To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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