ST. LOUIS -- Six days after Yadier Molina put the Cardinals on the clock by imposing an Opening Day deadline for extension talks, the two sides appear to be nearing common ground.Speaking after the Cardinals' 9-3 win in Memphis on Thursday night, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak described himself as
ST. LOUIS -- Six days after Yadier Molina put the Cardinals on the clock by imposing an Opening Day deadline for extension talks, the two sides appear to be nearing common ground.
Speaking after the Cardinals' 9-3 win in Memphis on Thursday night, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak described himself as "optimistic" and "hopeful" that the club would reach an agreement with Molina before Sunday.
His comments came a few hours after MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal reported on Twitter that the Cardinals and Molina were finalizing a three-year extension worth between $55 million and $65 million. In response to that report, Mozeliak and Molina both cautioned that negotiations were still ongoing.
"We're progressing," said Molina, after homering in Thursday's exhibition game. "But nothing is done yet."
If Molina does agree to a three-year extension, it would assure him of remaining in St. Louis through 2020 and increase the chances that he would finish his career having played for just one organization. This distinction of having Molina retire as a Cardinal is something that carries weight for both parties.
"It's something that's very unique," Mozeliak said. "He was drafted by the organization. He's been in the big leagues since '04. And think of the success we've had in that time, and he's a part of all of it. In terms of how I think about trying to make his legacy or complete that ... it's very real in how we think about it."
Molina returned to Cardinals camp a week ago rejuvenated after playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and eager to have some resolution about his future. He acknowledged being intrigued by the possibility of entering free agency for the first time in his career, but also insisted that if the Cardinals paid him what he felt he deserved, his preference would be to stay with the team that drafted him back in 2000.
Molina specifically hinted at the fact that he was looking to become the highest-paid catcher in the game. Based on the figures in Rosenthal's report, Molina might have gotten his wish, as the average annual value of Giants catcher Buster Posey's contract is $18.5 million.
Over the past 13 years, Molina has begun building a resume that could eventually lead him to Cooperstown, N.Y. He's an eight-time National League Gold Glove Award winner, a seven-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion. Finishing his career in St. Louis likely would solidify his place as one of the top players in franchise history.
The Cardinals are also keenly aware of how Molina has his fingerprints on so many within the organization. He's a mentor to young catchers during Spring Training and the rudder for the pitching staff. As was recently showcased in the Classic, Molina can also fill the role of in-game pitching coach.
"They know I'm a fan, and they know I am a direct recipient, as we all are, of his impact and all he does for our club and how excited I am to have him," manager Mike Matheny said this week. "I'm a supporter of how I see him in the future."
Molina has shown exceptional durability at the game's most demanding position and is coming off a season in which he started a career-high 142 games behind the plate. His offensive production hasn't dipped, either. Though Molina has not come close to replicating the 22-homer season he posted in 2012, he remains one of the most productive hitters at his position.
Last season, Molina's .365 batting average in the second half ranked second-best among all Major League players. He led the Cardinals with a .307 season average, 38 doubles and 46 multi-hit games.
Of course, a three-year extension would come with some risk to the Cardinals, who would be paying Molina through his age-37 season. It also casts some uncertainty over the future of Carson Kelly, the organization's No. 2 prospect. Kelly, 22, was being groomed as Molina's successor. He's opening the season as the starting catcher in Triple-A.
"I think when you accomplish what Mr. Molina has done, I don't think you can factor anything else into it," Mozeliak said. "In fairness to Carson, he has a great future. But the focus of this has to be on Mr. Molina."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.