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Yadi deal will be great for Cardinals in long-term

Posted Thursday, March 1, 2012, at 3:08 PM

While I was initially quite skeptical about throwing too much money at a catcher, I really think he and the front office worked together to create a deal that will be mutually beneficial for several years to come.

My original concern stemmed from a fear that the numbers and years he might be seeking would be blatantly ridiculous. Given his bluntness last week when speaking about an extension, I was afraid he was seeking maybe $17+ million and minimum 6 years.

Now that we know the specifics, I feel somewhat better. First, he's going to be here and most likely for the remainder of his career. Second, and I'll get into this more in depth further into this column, a lot of money will be coming off of the books soon to help compensate.

The deal, which frankly was worked out rather quickly and smoothly, is for a reported five years through 2017 with a $15 million mutual option for 2018.

With the new contract officially taking affect for the 2013 season. In 2012 he will complete his current contract at the agreed upon $7 million.

Molina's new deal starts for 2013. Contract for 2012 stays in place at $7 million.

The new contract will make Molina the second highest paid catcher in the history behind only Joe Mauer from the Minnesota Twins who is earning a whopping $23 million per season. It also means that for at least a couple of years he will make more money than his good friend Albert Pujols.

While I think the money is there, there is a lot of risk involved in a long-term deals for catchers. Traditionally, due to the massive strain on knees, ankles, hips, backs and occasionally skulls (Mike Matheny), for a catcher to play into their late 30s is a rarity. With that being said, Molina's contract, even with the option, will end when he is 36. That's good for the team.

Given Yadi's health history, to expect another four to five solid years out of him is not unrealistic. Even if he does begin to struggle, there are a lot of other things Yadi brings to the table that are hard to put a price tag on. That's where deals like this get tricky.

Yadi had a career-best offensive season in 2011, but offense isn't what brought him a deal that could potentially pay him $88 million. What brought out the checkbook for Yadi was his defense, arguably the best defensive catcher in the game, and the leadership and solidity he brings to the Cardinals pitching staff.

Those things are so difficult to put a number on because, basically, as a general rule teams don't pay for defense. When it comes to infielders, for instance, teams pay for offense. They want a second baseman or shortstop to be a good lead-off hitter.

The interesting contrast has always been that while defense doesn't usually bring big paychecks, lousy defense will take those paychecks away so fast you won't know what happened. Several former Cardinals have learned that in recent years.

Yadi's value to the pitching staff, as one of my friends has said as long as I can remember, isn't even measurable. Whether it's knowing when a pitcher is done, what he needs to throw or how to walk to the mound and cool them down, few catchers have ever been able to help a pitcher keep a level head like he has.

With the rotation the team is expected to put out this season, that may not be such a big deal, but over the next few years that will change.

When guys like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez begin to make the transition to the big show, Yadi's real value will shine and I'm sure that was taken into consideration when this deal was worked out.

While, yes, I wish it could have gotten done for around $12 million, in the end I'm very pleased that they got this done. If they hadn't worked out a deal it would have been difficult to replace him. With a farm system very limited behind the plate, management would have been left to fight the free agent market. While there will be quite a few good catchers out there, that usually means that quite a few teams are also looking for a good catcher. That can only translate into big $$$.

Frankly, the fans needed this.

It's been a tough offseason for Cardinal Nation. The fans need not only to see that the front office committed to spending what's necessary to create a competitive team, but that at least one of their heroes is are willing to stay in St. Louis.

When Albert Pujols left many fans were left with the idea that he just didn't want to be here anymore. While by no means did Yadi take a hometown discount, he did put to rest tons of rumors about how he would "leave for the Angels," too.

Today fans can rest assured that Yadi is a Cardinal.


To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

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i agree, when the young prospects break into the majors, it will help them tremendously having a backstop of yadi's calibur

-- Posted by uptobat on Thu, Mar 1, 2012, at 11:10 PM

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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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