Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina plans to play out the three seasons on his current contract and retire following the 2020 season, as he told the media Monday at the team’s annual Winter Warm Up event in St. Louis.
Molina, 35, has spent his entire 17-year professional career in the Cardinals organization and has played 14 big-league seasons in St. Louis, helping the Cardinals to two World Series victories while being named an All-Star eight times, winning eight Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger Award. Last April, he signed a three-year, $60 million contract extension that kicks in this year.
It will be interesting to see if Molina can establish himself as a surefire Hall of Famer over the final three seasons of his career. He’s widely regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the history of the game, and for a three-year stretch from 2011-13 he was also one of the game’s most valuable hitters, finishing fourth in NL MVP voting in 2012 and third in 2013. But there’s a rather vocal crowd — one largely comprised of metrics-savvy voters — that believes Molina hasn’t been valuable enough as an all-around player to achieve Hall-of-Fame status. Using Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric, he has a 31.9 rating, which is well short of the 43.9 rating achieved by the average Hall-of-Fame catcher.
Molina’s timeline for retirement leaves the Cardinals in a bit of a predicament when it comes to developing a succession plan. They have Carson Kelly, who is ranked as the No. 2 catching prospect in baseball. Kelly has already spent parts of two seasons in the majors, though, and he’ll be 26 years old by the time Molina retires. Thus, they could opt to use Kelly as a trade chip and develop 22-year old Andrew Knizner, 20-year-old Dennis Ortega, or 19-year-old Zach Jackson as Molina’s heir apparent. Knizner (No. 26) and Jackson (No. 24) were both ranked on MLB Pipeline’s most recent top-30 Cardinals prospects list, while Ortega is highly regarded within the organization and received an invitation to major-league spring training at age 19 last year.