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Buffa: Yadier Molina will call it a career after current contract

For the time being, Molina wants to go out with a couple more rings. He doesn't want to talk about rest, playing time, or whether or not Kelly is ready.
Dan Buffa

At last, Yadier Molina walked into the media room, ready to dish on what the Cardinals had done over the offseason and his thoughts on Carlos Martinez. There was one thing he said that was a genuine surprise.

After his current contract runs out, a three-year deal that starts this season, Yadier Molina is done.

When asked to confirm his plans, his response was simple.

"That's it."

It's a phrase that he clarified with ease, carrying the sound of a guy who was at ease with a career that includes eight gold gloves and two World Series titles while retaining the hunger of someone who isn't satisfied with his trophy case. He said all of this without using the magic word: retire.

Sly words from a guy who hit 18 home runs, drove in 82, and played in 130+ games once again. The home runs and slugging percentage were his highest marks since the 2013 season, the latest episode in the "Yadier Proves His Critics Wrong" saga.

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With Carson Kelly getting some time behind Molina last season and lurking as the No. 1 catching prospect, the seasoned vet didn't even utter the young protege's name once to the media. Some would say he doesn't want to have his words twisted for the media's later usage, but I think he's simply worried about himself and what he needs to do.

After all, Molina is expected by some to collapse due to old age any minute. At 35, Molina has competed in 130 games or more in eight of the last ten seasons. He's not slowing down, so why would he want to talk about getting Kelly ready? A vacancy isn't planned, at least for the next three years.

Molina got his caught stealing percentage back up in 2017, as well as his pop-up speed and mph to second base. Baserunners seemed to think 2016's ordinary season was a reason to steal, and Molina corrected them all summer long. He played in his eighth All-Star game last July.

When asked about Carlos Martinez taking the last step into becoming a Cy Young caliber pitcher, Molina referenced Martinez's "mentality" needing to improve in order to reach that plateau. He described Adam Wainwright like a bulldog, someone who can make a comeback.

Molina likes what the Cardinals have done this offseason, and thinks the team can compete for a World Series the next three years. The man would like five before he steps down.

Do I think he's retiring in three seasons? I'd say yes. Molina isn't the kind of player who will move to first base in order to stay in the game. He'd rather leave at his best. Molina will start 130 games behind home plate or fall on the shield. That's the way he is and it hasn't changed since he took over the role from current manager Mike Matheny. Molina isn't just going to stick around. He'll be "the guy" or he'll be gone.

When asked about possibly managing down the road, Molina laughed a bit and said he hasn't thought about it. This question brought some closure to the weekend for me and I'll tell you why.

Seeing veterans Adam Wainwright talk about comebacks and Molina joke about managing tells you that the tide is changing in the clubhouse. Molina is still going strong, but slowly and surely, things are changing, and an urgency is settling in.

The 2018 Cardinals will be led by Molina and lean on Wainwright for a solid season. The time is finally coming to fruition where the team will no longer do that — and that leaves an odd feeling.

For the time being, Molina wants to go out with a couple more rings. He doesn't want to talk about rest, playing time, or whether or not Kelly is ready.

Right now, Yadier Molina wants to talk about winning baseball games-because there is an actual clock on it.

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