After much of the fan base had started to write off the possibility that Yadier Molina was going to spend more than one more season wearing the birds on the bat, talks between him and the club have progressed so far as to be labeled "close to agreement" and "all but finalized". While nothing counts until the names are on the paper, it sounds like Molina is going to be a pillar of the Cardinal teams going forward.
A very expensive pillar.
While Joe Strauss is talking about $60 million or more for likely five years, Ken Rosenthal is hearing that it's between $70-$75 million for the length of the deal. When you break out the calculators, that's $14 or $15 million per year. When Yadi said it was about the money, looks like he meant it!
If this is true--and, to be fair, we have no idea if Rosenthal's source is accurate--that would make Molina the second-highest paid player on the current roster, bumping aside Carlos Beltran and Kyle Lohse to trail only Matt Holliday. That's heady stuff for a guy that, even up until last year, was considered a defense-first catcher.
This doesn't sound like the rational and analytical John Mozeliak that we've come to know. The guy that did the analysis, figured the cost of Albert Pujols, then let him walk. The guy that made a calculated move to ship out a talented and cheap player to buffer up the current squad. This sounds like Mozeliak has found a local establishment and has been hanging out there after practices every day in Florida. Whatever he's drinking, it's good stuff.
For a team that reportedly had to move Kyle McClellan and his $2.5 million to have a chance to sign Roy Oswalt, this seems a curious move. Now, I'm guessing a five year deal means that it would replace Molina's current 2012 year that was worth $7 million and that it'll be a backloaded contract, meaning that they'd probably get Molina still at around the $7-8 million range but then, after some of the bigger contracts roll off, he's move up to more like $16-17 million by the end of it. So perhaps there are ways to make the payroll portion of this work.
But should they? One of the only ways that St. Louis can stay competitive, besides continuing to develop their farm system, is not making a mistake on large contracts. They gave Holliday his big deal but early returns are showing he's earning it. It's not a surprise, either, since power hitting outfielders are the ones that usually get this kind of cash.
A catcher, though? At one time I believe I read that the Cardinals were doing some internal work on injuries, trying to analyze them and see who was susceptible, who was not. If that's the case, I'm guessing there are reasons that they expect Molina won't wear down over the course of this deal and can be productive both offensively and defensively, but that seems like a large gamble to take. What happens if Molina's legs are shot in 2015 and you've got to pay him $16 million or so for that season and the season beyond? Seems like it has a strong possibility of putting the Cardinals in a payroll bind very quickly.
If the contract is actually closer to $10-12 million a year, that's still fairly pricey but a little more manageable. There's definitely an argument for making sure Molina gets paid. He's a homegrown guy, he may have a significant impact on the pitching staff, and he does have a fairly good bat for a catcher. I'm not saying I wouldn't want Molina on the team--far from it. I just think back to all the arguments people made about not giving Pujols a record-setting contract because it could easily cripple the franchise. This one might be for millions less, but it still has that possibility.
A few other notes from around the camp. Lohse will be starting the spring opener on Monday. I don't think that has any import except they've worked the rotation forward to Opening Day and this is the way it needs to shake out to make sure Chris Carpenter can go that night in Miami.
Allen Craig got to get on the field yesterday, but he's still extremely limited in what the club will let him do. Opening Day really seems out of the question, but if he gets back on the field in April, that's a big step ahead of where I thought he'd be. I wasn't thinking he'd be back until mid-May, so getting back a month before that can only help the team.
Marc Rzepczynski is coming into this season with a lot of confidence. Then again, getting key outs in the World Series will do that to a person. How Mike Matheny uses Scrabble may be one of the most interesting things to watch in the first few weeks. Tony La Russa would have likely used him as a LOOGY (at least until he trusted J.C. Romero) but I've got a feeling Matheny is going to let Rzepczynski see a number of right-handed batters as well. Don't figure we'll know a lot from the spring training usage, but should have a pretty good feel by May.
I meant to talk about this yesterday, but time got away from me. I don't expect to focus much time on the Cardinals that are no longer here, unless they say or do something that relates to their time wearing the red. That was the case with Colby Rasmus late last week, who really tore into his time in St. Louis.
Now, I'm not going to argue that perhaps Tony La Russa should have managed him better. That seems to be the common idea around the internet and there is a lot to that. TLR's one-size-fits-all type of managing, where he tried to motivate players with "tough love," as it were, probably doesn't work for everyone. Even without La Russa in the clubhouse this year, odds are Rasmus just wouldn't have reached whatever potential he might have here.
That said, let's not put all the blame on TLR. Some of Rasmus's quotes seem to show a lack of awareness of what was going on in St. Louis.
First off, to say "the fans were upset with me" is possibly true, but it is misleading. Were people disappointed that he was hitting .246/.332/.420 at the time of the trade? Surely. They knew he could do more than that and had seen him do more than that in the past. But look at the reaction to the trade from fans on the internet. At the time, it was probably at least 70-30 against the deal because the fans didn't want to give up a talent like Rasmus. I'm guilty of it as well and I'm glad the deal brought a World Series to St. Louis, because otherwise the feellings toward Mozeliak right now might be a little different.
Secondly, ripping the St. Louis media as tough might be the first time anyone's ever done that. We've got great media people in St. Louis. Derrick Goold, Bernie Miklasz, Matthew Leach was here then, all of those guys are quality reporters. This isn't New York or Boston or Philadelphia, where some papers seem to take an inordinate joy in tearing players down or berating them or exploiting whatever weakness they have. If he thought St. Louis media was tough, how in the world did he even survive road trips to New York?
His "young little puppy" remarks also could come across (depending on the perspective you bring to the discussion) as clueless as well. Rasmus's contention is that he had too many people telling him what to do and how to do it. The flip side of that could be that getting advice from players and coaches is kinda part of the gig. It depends on how it was given, of course. Rasmus may have thought he was being browbeaten while other players were just trying to get him to unlock his talents.
Finally, I took a bit of offense to the question about him getting a ring. "I'll believe it when I see it." The organization has said you are getting a ring, Colby. You even admit that in the preceding sentence. If you are trying to imply that this organization is classless enough not to give you a ring when 1) you earned it (at least by manner of being on the squad last year) and 2) they have already confirmed it, that's pretty weak. What you do with the ring is your own business (wouldn't be surprised to see that on the market at some time or another) but you'll have one.
I forgot to start this yesterday, but it's time to being revealing how Cardinal Nation feels about the players, the media, and other assorted people related to the Redbirds. We'll do one in each category a day and hopefully mix in some thoughts left on the form earlier in the month.
Today's player is Lance Berkman. This is the first time Berkman's been on the form, as there wasn't really any point in asking about him before he'd played a game in Cardinal red. So, would the #LBFanClub come out in force?
For a guy that was Comeback Player of the Year, has a remarkably personable public persona and kept the Cardinals from elimination in Game 6, I kinda thought the results would be higher. Still, an 88.6% mark isn't anything to sneeze at. One commentor stated that "Lance deserves every mark of positive kudos" and another said, simply, "Puma can flat out rake." Berkman notched five 100s and his low was a solitary 50 (about 20 points lower than his next-lowest).
On the media side, we look at our friend Derrick Goold from the Post-Dispatch. Derrick brought home a 87.8% mark last year and is generally well-regarded, which is why I was surprised when this year's had dipped to 82.8%. There was even one ranking of 0, which really surprised me. I'm not sure if they were registering no opinion or if Mr. Goold had really twerked them off somehow, but I had to count it. Derrick did garner two perfect scores, however.
Finally, in the assorted category, we look at club owner Bill DeWitt. DeWitt's numbers have bounced around from a high of 83 before the '10 season to a low of 71 before last season. How would the numbers look this year? Would people blame him for a certain icon walking or applaud him for holding a stern line? Would he get credit for bringing in a top bat off the free agent market?
Well, while he doesn't hit his past highs, Mr. DeWitt does move up to 79.8% this year, a large jump from his last mark. One person commented that DeWitt and Mozeliak are "keeping a viable team, despite the economy and personnel challenges" and another says they are "making some great moves." DeWitt received two 100s and one 30 for his low mark.
Tomorrow we'll do another set of three and see how they turn out!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball