Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:15 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:08 pm
JUPITER, Fla. -- As I warned Yadier Molina's agent, Melvin Roman, I was going to think/say/write the Cardinals got a great deal on Molina no matter what the deal was. I think he is that good. Roman is probably a little bit biased, but he called me over after the press conference to announce the signing to tell me he agrees with me.
Though clearly, not everyone does. A fairly strong stat-based case is being made on the internet (and below here) that $75 million for five years (plus a mutual sixth-year option) is an overpay.
I say, Molina's game isn't about numbers. I say, there are no comps for Molina because there is no one even close to like him.
The surprise here may be that the sides figured it out without too much trouble since no one's comparable. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt and GM John Mozeliak agreed that it wasn't easy to put a pricetag on Molina because he is such a different player. He is the best defensive catcher in baseball, the best-throwing catcher, a clutch hitter and a winner. So ultimately, it wasn't about the comps, it was about the need and the desire.
"We couldn't take a chance of him being a free agent,'' DeWitt told me this morning.
I'm with him. But it's fair to present the other side. There's a big internet outcry, some but not all by the stat folks, that $15 million per year is to much for Molina. Here's how a friend of mine in baseball who analyzes these things put it for the other side:
"Good move by Yadier Molina. Cash in on a career year offensively and a second (winning) World Series. But buyer beware. He is coming off his first season with double digit home runs (14) and an OPS (.814) that is 100-plus points above his career average (.707). He had a .671 OPS in 2010 and I don't think that would get him $15 a year, even with his great defense.
"Twins got all giddy over Joe Mauer's 28 home run MVP season in 2009, numbers he likely will never reach again. They gave him $184 million. I'm sure they'd like a do-over on that contract.
"John Buck had a career year in '10 (20 home runs, .802 OPS) and that got him three years and $18 million (total) with the Marlins. Buck isn't anything close to Molina defensively, but, other that batting average, his career stats are on par with Molina. In fact, he has more power (90 home runs to 55 for Molina) through their free agent year Nobody is suggesting you;d take Buck over Molina. But it's obvious the Cardinals value Molina's intangibles/gamecalling, as they are paying him at a star rate.''
DeWitt had an answer, saying, "We didn't extend Molina because he had a good year offensively last year. We extended him because of the bulk of the work since he became a regular in 2005. He's been a key player on two World Series teams. He's won Gold Gloves. He's made All-Star teams multiple times.''
Beyond that, Molina brings things that can't be measured. He has tough at-bats at crucial moments (Mets fans know that, as do Rangers fans). He is tough mentally and physically. He doesn't miss games. The pitchers love him at a time they've lost Dave Duncan. As DeWitt said, they just couldn't take a chance.