'This is my home': Molina ready to chase title

St. Louis always first choice for Yadi, who's excited to share field with Arenado, Waino

February 9th, 2021

In 's mind, there was no other option.

True, he did have them; several teams who were in the market for a catching stopgap had offers out. True, this was his first foray into free agency, an equal parts fun and challenging process, he said. True, he believes he can still help propel a contender toward a championship.

But in the end, really, there was no other decision.

“This is my home,” Molina said. “I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to be back.”

Molina was re-introduced as a member of the Cardinals for the first time in his career on Tuesday, signing a new one-year deal worth $9 million (per MLB Network insider Jon Heyman) after years of contract extensions from the first one he signed as a fourth-round Draft pick in 2000.

“Yeah, it was a couple teams, they were serious about it,” Molina said. “But I was hoping for St. Louis to step up and to put something on the table, and that’s what they did. Like I said, my first choice was here, St. Louis. And that's the place that I want to be. That’s the place that I want to finish my career.”

It was an arduous process, even if the outcome felt more like a formality than an uncertainty from the periphery. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak listed re-signing Molina as one of his two major goals this offseason. Mission accomplished, but “I wish all this happened two months ago,” he said.

“Mentally, it was tough,” Molina added. “To be honest with you, mentally, it was tough. … It’s a process you don’t want to experience and at the same time you want to experience.”

Molina is not yet thinking retirement. He teased he could do so without the right offer this offseason, but he said on Tuesday that he plans to continue his career as far as his health will take him.

“We’re going year by year,” Molina said. “... I’m concentrating on this year. We’ve got a great team. I’m excited to be on this team with a bunch of great players. I’m concentrating on this year. Hopefully we’ll stay healthy, everyone, and we’ll bring the championship this year. After that we’ll look and see and decide what the future is.”

That he and are re-signed on one-year deals is no coincidence. Upon officially inking his deal on Jan. 29, Wainwright said his focus turned to bringing his batterymate back to the only big league club they’ve both called home.

The duo has started 274 games together (288 including postseason). Since 1900, those marks are the sixth-most of any starter-catcher battery, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Their ranking could very well hit as high as No. 4 by the end of 2021.

Starter-catcher batteries since 1900 (regular season):

• Mickey Lolich-Bill Freehan -- 324
• Warren Spahn-Del Crandall -- 316
• Red Faber-Ray Schalk -- 306
• Don Drysdale-Johnny Roseboro -- 283
• Red Ruffing-Bill Dickey -- 282
• Adam Wainwright-Yadier Molina -- 274

“We stayed in touch the whole winter, the whole offseason, but he was a really big part why I signed back,” Molina said. “I love Waino, he’s my brother. And then when you add Arenado, why not come back?”

Molina is referring to , the superstar third baseman St. Louis officially acquired last Monday. The two have been in touch, with Arenado endearing himself to fans by publicly asking for Molina to return in his introductory press conference, and then texting the catcher in Mexico while he played in the Caribbean Series last week.

This is to say that Molina returns to a revamped Cardinals team, one that looked very different when he hit free agency at the end of November -- and even very different from the last week of January.

“We have a pretty good chance to win. We have a really good team,” Molina said. “I feel good about our team. … When you add the name Arenado to your lineup, it’s great.”

Molina has more accolades on the horizon. When he steps onto the field in 2021, he will begin his 18th season in a Cardinals jersey, surpassing Bob Gibson’s mark of 17 to sit behind only Stan Musial’s 22 years for the franchise. He’s already played the most games of any catcher in Cardinals history (2,025), with only Musial (3,026) and Lou Brock (2,289) ahead of him across all position players.

“I can count on one or two fingers of the type of player that has come through here during the last 25 years that have had the impact that [Yadi] has had,” Mozeliak said. “And so to work on all the things we were doing this offseason, with the acquisition of Arenado, getting Adam Wainwright re-signed, it only made sense to figure out a way to get Yadi done.”