Yadi in New York? What it would mean

November 12th, 2020

in the Big Apple? It's hard to picture it … but it could happen.

The longtime Cardinals catcher, a franchise icon and potential future Hall of Famer who's spent his entire 17-year career in St. Louis, is a free agent this offseason. And according to a report Thursday from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, both New York teams are interested in Molina.

Molina has gotten calls from the Mets and the Yankees. They're not the only ones -- Heyman reports that three to four other teams have checked in on the 38-year-old Molina, too, and so have the Cardinals, who might still be the favorites to keep their longtime backstop, who is looking for a two-year deal.

But Molina signing in New York? That would certainly shake things up.

Here's what it would mean if Molina signs with the Mets or the Yankees.


• The J.T. Realmuto market shifts

Realmuto is the prize catcher on the free-agent market -- 29 years old, in his prime, an all-around star at a premium position. And the Mets look like they could be one of Realmuto's top landing spots.

But if the Mets sign Molina and address their catcher situation with a combo of him and, say, another free agent like James McCann, what happens to Realmuto?

Realmuto could go back to the Phillies. They valued him highly enough to trade Sixto Sánchez for him two winters ago. Or he could go to another likely suitor -- the Yankees (especially if Molina lands with the Mets), Cardinals (who would need a Molina replacement), Angels or Nationals.

• The Mets pivot to other top FAs

In a scenario where the Mets go with a cheaper option at catcher, new owner Steve Cohen could focus his dollars on other top free agents, like center fielder George Springer and right-hander Trevor Bauer.

If Realmuto isn't the No. 1 free agent, then Springer or Bauer might be. A superstar center fielder and/or the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner would be big adds for the Mets.

Imagine a rotation with Jacob deGrom and Bauer, plus Marcus Stroman. And an outfield with Springer, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil all in the mix.

Bauer and Mets president Sandy Alderson already seem to be on the same page. And MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports the Mets are in the market for a "star-level" outfielder like Springer. Signing Molina could help put those moves on the table.

• Path to Lindor trade opens

If the Mets signed Molina and then used their Realmuto savings to get Springer, that would open a door for another big-splash move: a Francisco Lindor trade.

As Morosi notes, signing Springer would give the Mets the flexibility to use Nimmo and McNeil as trade chips.

"While Mets fans should be cautious not to expect the additions of Springer and Lindor," Morosi writes, "one move could [in theory] help to enable the other."


• Gary Sánchez becomes trade bait

Molina is a nine-time Gold Glover and four-time Platinum Glove winner. Sánchez, meanwhile, has had highly visible defensive struggles in New York, even though he's worked hard to improve behind the plate.

MLB Trade Rumors also notes that Molina continues to make contact a lot more than Sánchez, with a 13.5% strikeout rate this season to Sánchez's 36.0%. Sánchez's offensive struggles and high strikeout totals were also a big storyline in 2020.

But at his best, the 27-year-old Sánchez is an elite power hitter at the catcher position, and he's under team control for two more seasons, so he'd still be a valuable trade chip. The Yankees could use Molina as a short-term solution at catcher while they contend for a World Series, and try to move Sánchez to address another area, like adding a top starting pitcher.

This could happen. The New York Post reported Thursday that the Yankees will listen to trade offers for Sánchez, and that has to do with Molina's situation.

• Realmuto back in play for the Mets

Not that their crosstown rivalry drives the Mets or Yankees' decisions, but the Mets need a catcher. If the Yankees got Molina, that could push the Mets to prioritize Realmuto over Springer or Bauer.

And not for nothing, Molina with the Yankees would make for one interesting Subway Series, since he's been the Mets' nemesis since 2006.

• Could a Molina signing affect LeMahieu?

There's not a direct connection between Molina and LeMahieu, but the market for one could impact the other, as the Post notes in its Sánchez trade article. The Yankees might want to see how LeMahieu's market develops before committing to other moves ... but on the other hand, Molina would be the type of cost-effective signing that might indicate the Yankees can direct more significant resources toward retaining their MVP-caliber second baseman.

LeMahieu turned down the Yankees' one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer, and it will take more to sign him this time than the two-year, $24 million deal they got him for in 2019. But a return to the Bronx is still very much in play for the 32-year-old.