With about a month remaining before the Cardinals are scheduled to have pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Jupiter, Fla., two of their top priorities this offseason -- veteran catcher Yadier Molina and veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright -- remain unsigned.
Molina, 38, has made clear his preference to return to the Cardinals, and the Cards have expressed their interest in re-signing him. He’s seeking a two-year contract, but in a recent interview with Cardinals broadcaster Polo Ascencio for La Vida Baseball, Molina acknowledged that if an appealing offer isn’t there, he’ll consider retirement.
“I’m preparing hard. When God says -- if He wants, if it’s His will that I can come back, I’ll come back,” Molina said in Spanish. “And if not, I’ll retire happy and with my head held high.”
The Cardinals and Molina’s representation have remained in contact all offseason about a potential contract. But throughout the winter, the Cardinals have requested patience so they can determine what their budget is for the upcoming season, given the uncertainty of having ticket revenue during the coronavirus pandemic. But the club has yet to add a player on a Major League contract this winter, as talks with Wainwright and Molina remain just talks. Second baseman Kolten Wong is also a free agent after the Cardinals declined his option, but a reunion is unlikely, especially if clubs who don’t sign infielder DJ LeMahieu jump at Wong as an alternative.
All-Star and Gold Glove winner J.T. Realmuto is the top catcher in this free-agent class, and his market could help determine Molina’s market. Some of the teams interested in Realmuto could turn to Molina as a short-term option at catcher if Realmuto signs elsewhere, increasing Molina’s offers. Reports have surfaced that the Nationals and Angels have talked with Molina’s representation.
The Cardinals have referred to Molina as a “legacy” player and one they’d like to see finish his career in St. Louis. A free agent for the first time in his 17-year career, Molina has continued to prepare like he’ll play in 2021 and noted several times last season that he feels good and healthy enough to give it a few more years. The likely future Hall of Famer’s bat has tailed off some in recent years, but he is revered for his ability to call a game, frame pitches, control baserunners and guide pitchers.
Molina has played his entire career with the Cardinals and will likely be the last to wear their No. 4. The question remains if it’s the only jersey he’ll wear in his career -- or if 2020 was the final time he put it on.