JUPITER, Fla. -- Rejuvenated by Puerto Rico's run to the championship game of the World Baseball Classic, Yadier Molina returned to camp confident that he has many more years to give behind the plate and is ready to determine whether those will come as a St. Louis Cardinal.Molina put the
JUPITER, Fla. -- Rejuvenated by Puerto Rico's run to the championship game of the World Baseball Classic, Yadier Molina returned to camp confident that he has many more years to give behind the plate and is ready to determine whether those will come as a St. Louis Cardinal.
Molina put the Cardinals on the clock, stressing that he is open to entering free agency if he and the club cannot reach an agreement on a contract extension before the team's Sunday opener against the Cubs at 7:35 p.m. CT on ESPN.
"We have one more week to talk about it, and after that I'm going to concentrate on my game," Molina said. "Whatever they want to do, like I said, I'd love to stay here, but if they don't want to spend money, I understand that, too. This is a business. I'm going to try and concentrate on myself."
Two days after those comments, there are already reports of progress. MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman tweeted early Monday evening that, according to sources, the two sides are "making progress in talks and may be getting closer to a deal."
General manager John Mozeliak, who had preliminary talks with Molina's agent prior to the World Baseball Classic, told MLB.com over the weekend that he planned to reach out to agent Melvin Roman within the next few days to try to reignite those earlier negotiations.
"Clearly the clock is ticking," Mozeliak said. "I get that. I've known Yadi's agent for a long time. We've talked for years over things. I'm not worried about the deadline. If we want to get something done, we have time."
Molina's current contract, which will pay him $14 million this season, does include a mutual option for 2018. It's unlikely, however, that Molina would exercise that on his end. Asked if he's intrigued by exploring his value on the free-agent market for the first time, Molina said, "Oh yeah."
"I would love to," he added. "I mean, I would love to stay, but at the same time, I'm not afraid to go to free agency. I've still got many years in the tank, believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. Believe me, I'm not afraid to go to free agency."
Molina has never put his foot in free-agent waters before. He signed a four-year deal as an arbitration-eligible player with the Cardinals in 2008 and then had a five-year, $75 million extension finalized in March 2012. At the time of that agreement, Molina could boast of having a higher average annual salary than all but one catcher (Joe Mauer) in baseball history.
But that's not the case anymore, and Molina hinted at the fact that he is looking to become the highest paid catcher in the game. Right now, Molina, 34, is poised to enter 2017 making less than Buster Posey ($22 million), Russell Martin ($20 million) and Brian McCann ($17 million).
The Cardinals, as part of their negotiations with Molina, could revise his 2017 salary to elevate that figure. Molina would not specify how many years he'd like his next contract to cover, but he does desire to play for several more. He noted that playing alongside some of the game's best talent in the World Baseball Classic reinvigorated him.
"The energy that they bring is contagious," he said. "It was good for me. That tournament was good for me."
Molina said he hasn't received any news from his agent about recent progress with negotiations, which he took as signifying that none has been made.
Over the last 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 would likely solidify his place as one of the top players in franchise history.
"I think it would be great for Yadi," manager Mike Matheny said of Molina finishing as a lifetime Cardinal. "I think it would be great for our organization and our fans. There is a business component to it that I know has to be worked out. So hopefully we will see how that progresses, but I know the conversations have been in the works."
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.