After weeks of negotiations, the Cardinals have reportedly reached a deal for a three-year extension with Yadier Molina. The team will officially announce the contract this afternoon, but early reports have pegged the total sum at $60 million, which would make the 34-year-old baseball’s highest-paid catcher in terms of average annual value:
The deal is a compromise, as Molina initially went in requesting four years while the team wanted two. Though making a long-term commitment or shelling out a considerable sum for a catcher in his mid-30s is always going to be a risky proposition from the team’s perspective due to the position’s harsh aging curve, Molina has an advantage here in the fact that so much of his talent comes from his framing skills—which tend to age fairly gracefully. There’s also the fact that he’s simply been so good, even while showing ordinary signs of wear-and-tear and beginning to slip a bit over the past few years. Though he had an awful season at the plate in 2015, he bounced back last year to such an extent that it now looks like a bad blip on the radar rather than the start of a significant decline for him.
That said, Molina certainly doesn’t have the grip on the title of best catcher in baseball that he once did. Buster Posey, with his super-human defensive skills and steady reputation as one of the game’s best-hitting catchers, is too damn talented to make that possible. Posey is also the reason that Molina will only technically be baseball’s highest-paid catcher. While the average annual value of Molina’s extension just edges out Posey’s at $20 million versus $18.6 million, Posey’s nine-year deal for $167 million is obviously a much bigger contract overall and also will see him making more than Molina for every year of the latter’s new deal. (After making between $12 and $20 million for the first few years of his contract, Posey will make $21.4 million annually beginning this season.)
While Molina’s not the absolute best of the best any longer, he’s still the Cardinals’ guy, and they were willing to pay up to make that true for a few more years.