Yadi named special assistant to Mozeliak

December 7th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Yadier Molina, a franchise fixture at catcher for 19 seasons and the driving force behind World Series wins in 2006 and '11, rejoined the Cardinals as a special assistant to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, the club announced on Wednesday.

The 41-year-old Molina had been in talks with the club since early October, when he returned to Busch Stadium for the first time since ending his run with St. Louis after the 2022 season.

Mozeliak said on Wednesday that when talks began about Molina reuniting with the club following one season of retirement, the Cardinals sought to hire him as a full-time assistant coach. When Molina indicated that family concerns would not allow him to devote that much time, the talks shifted to him serving in more of an advisory role. However, he will be in uniform and working from the dugout at times during the season, Mozeliak confirmed.

“A little Yadi is still better than no Yadi,” Mozeliak said. “He’s going to be a red jacket [Cardinals Hall of Famer], a Major League Hall of Famer and he’s an icon for the Cardinals. He’s going to be a resource for [manager] Oli [Marmol], and he’s going to spend time at the Minor League level. It’s not going to be catching-specific, but that will be his forte. But if he can help pitchers or even spend time with coaches and share his wisdom, that’s the point of this.”

Molina played every one of his 2,224 games with the Cardinals, winning nine Gold Gloves and making 10 All-Star teams while setting numerous records. His 2,184 games behind the plate are the most for any catcher with one MLB club, and his 328 starts alongside Adam Wainwright are the most for any pitcher/catcher battery in NL/AL history. In addition to his two World Series wins, Molina helped St. Louis reach the Fall Classic in 2004 and '13.

During this week's Winter Meetings, Mozeliak stated that the Cardinals underestimated what Molina meant to the club as its do-it-all catcher. The executive had been negotiating the terms of Molina's new role for weeks before the agreement was announced on Wednesday.

Specifically, the Cards want Molina to work with big league catchers Willson Contreras and Iván Herrera, who struggled at times with adapting to the expectations that the team has for its catchers in terms of game-planning and pregame prep work.

Contreras, a three-time All-Star, signed a five-year, $87.5 million free-agent deal with the Cardinals last December. He wore No. 4 cleats on Opening Day as a nod to Molina, and the two talked during the season when Contreras encountered troubles with his framing numbers and pitching-calling sequences with the team’s pitching staff.

“I don’t know if [his skill] is an easy thing to teach because it was so innate with him, and he did it so naturally,” Mozeliak said of Molina. “But he was a guy that studied and did a lot of work to get to where he was. Just learning about his work habits and how he approached things will be a big help for a lot of people.”

Mozeliak stressed that Molina has long-term desires to manage at the big league level, so he will be spending time with the Cardinals' coaching staff to learn more about the rigors of the job.

“I think, at some level, we’ll have to have a governor on him, because part of the reason he’s not going full time or 100 miles an hour is because he’s trying to balance family [with baseball],” Mozeliak said. “The last thing I want is to be the one advocating or pushing for more because we know what we agreed upon.”