ST. LOUIS — With the World Series now underway, we're getting closer and closer to Major League Baseball free agency. St. Louis has a couple of big decisions to make this hot stove season. The biggest revolves around their future Hall of Fame back stop.
Yadier Molina, who is 38 years old, is a free agent, and there's a legitimate chance for the first time since 2003, he won't be behind home plate for the Cardinals.
Molina has gone from saying he was done at the end of this contract, to saying he'd only play for the Cardinals to eventually saying he just wants to play more, even if it's not in St. Louis.
The latest rumblings say Molina is eyeing at least a couple more years.
5 On Your Side sports director Frank Cusumano talked with someone who has some unique insight on what Yadi may be thinking: His brother, Bengie.
Bengie, a former gold glover and World Series champion catcher is now part of the Cardinals Spanish radio broadcasts.
"In his heart he (Yadi) wants to stay so bad. He wants to stay. He doesn't want to go anywhere," Bengie said. "Knowing Yadi, he's very loyal to what he started. He started in St. Louis, he wants to finish (his) career here. Here's the thing. Yadi's not asking for 10-year deals and 7-year deals. He's asking for a year and an option or a two year deal, right? That'll get him to 40. Well paid because he's one of the most important players on the team. Another thing, Yadi is going to get paid in free agency. If he goes out of St. Louis and they don't sign him, he's going to end up getting what he wants in the free agent market. It's just up to the St. Louis organization to want him back at the right price."
At 38 years old, it's unlikely Molina will be seeing any offers of more than a year or two. But if he can't work out something with the Cardinals, expect the suitors to come knocking.
"Asking for two years, I haven't heard Yadi say that. I haven't talked to him about it. But the times we talk about staying in St. Louis... he doesn't want to go anywhere. But he's also not afraid to go to free agency," Bengie said. "If Yadi goes to free agency there's going to be a bunch of teams giving him whatever the heck he wants."
So what about a year and a club option from the Cardinals? Would Yadi be interested in that kind of a contract to stay in St. Louis?
"I think so. It depends on obviously the respect they show him for what he's done and what he can do in the future... I think he would accept a year and an option. He doesn't want to leave St. Louis and I know that, but you have to show him respect, right? You have to show him a little respect," Bengie said. "We have a few guys getting paid but haven't had their best years the past few years. Yadi has been very steady, but he's a little different because he controls the pitching. He's been good in offense, but he's also been great in defense with helping the pitching. I think it's a no-brainer to bring him back."
Molina caught 42 games of the team's 58-game season in 2020, despite catching COVID-19 during the year and being one of the oldest players in the league.
The Cardinals eventually lost to the Padres in the 3-game Wild Card Series to open the playoffs, but it wasn't because of Yadi. He hit .462 in the series. For the season, Yadi hit .262 with four home runs and 16 RBI, while leading the Cardinals' often dominant pitching staff behind the plate.
Bengie said Yadi's continued high level of play at his advanced baseball age is due to will and hard work.
"I think it's his work ethic. The way he works out, the way he eats and the way he takes care of his body. It was amazing, the day he got eliminated from the playoffs, the next day he was out running three miles saying, 'There's no days off'", Bengie said. "The way he works out and prepares himself for a season tells me he's going to retire at the top. He's going to retire because he wants to retire."
Speaking of possible retirement, the Cardinals have another veteran they need to make a decision on.
Starter Adam Wainwright has been along for the ride with Yadi pretty much their entire careers, and Wainwright also had an impressive season in 2020.
Bengie said it's a mystery to him why both of these Cardinals icons haven't already been locked in for another year at least.
"I have no idea to this second we're doing this interview why these two kids have not been signed for at least one more year with the Cardinals. I have no idea," Bengie said. "I can not tell you a reason why these two guys have not been signed to a one year deal at least."