Why The Cardinals Can Easily Afford Molina’s New Contract
It was shocking to hear so many fans grumbling about the news that the Cardinals had given Yadier Molina a contract of 5 years and $75 million dollars (or $15M a year). Molina has been one of the key components of successful Cardinal teams over a seven year span while still being a huge bargain as one of the best catchers in baseball.
It’s as if the Albert Pujols nonsense has frightened the fan base into fiscal conservatism. Weird.
As we have seen in the past, general manager John Mozeliak has had one unwavering eye on the bottom line, and he has shown some amount of skill (not counting the Kyle Lohse deal) at layering contracts to keep the budget reasonable. Mozeliak pays certain important players at the right time, and discards others that are not primary pieces. It’s one of the primary reasons Bill DeWitt trusts Mozeliak so much, and so should the fans.
A quick look at the books reveals that, once again, Mozeliak is playing chess instead of checkers. Here are the contracts coming off the books in the next two years:
Jake Westbrook ($8.5M)
Kyle Lohse ($12M)
Lance Berkman ($12M)
So that’s a total of $32.5M dollars of freed up capital for the 2013 season. Molina’s raise is $8M of that, leaving $24.5M (of the current budget) that could be used to find extra pieces. However, we must remember that the Cardinals have two huge prospects who are penciled in to replace Westbrook and Lohse in the starting rotation in 2013, and they will be making league minimums for a couple of years. The Cardinals also have Matt Adams and/or Allen Craig ready to take over for Berkman, who should be ready to retire.
There will be a slight bump in payroll as Adam Wainwright receives a raise of $3M to $12M in his final year.
Rafael Furcal ($7M)
Carlos Beltran ($13M)
Chris Carpenter ($10.5M)
Adam Wainwright ($12M)
As you can see, the Cardinals shed another huge amount of money in contracts after the 2013 season. That’s another $42M after just one season. If we add in the $24.5M from the previous year, Mozeliak subtracts a startling $66.5M of major contracts from the current payroll in two years.
That leaves plenty of room for the Cardinals to pay Adam Wainwright a larger contract (if his 2012-2013 seasons warrant that) worth somewhere in the $15M range and still have plenty of room to maneuver in the market.
So can the Cardinals afford Molina? Financially, the answer is a resounding YES.
But could the Cardinals afford to lose Molina right now? The answer is a resounding NO.
You see, Mozeliak is attempting to piece the team together so that the younger (and cheaper) players coming up in the next three years will have core influences from previous teams still remaining. This season (and the following two) will see crucial pitching prospects like Shelby Miller, Jordan Swagerty, and Carlos Martinez reach the major leagues – who better to help groom them and guide them through the rough patches like Molina, one of the best game-callers in baseball? Molina’s assistance could be the difference between these pitchers being decent … or being GREAT.
Molina’s skill at commanding an infield will also be important as he helps groom some of the Cardinals’ important infield prospects like Kolten Wong, Ryan Jackson, and Matt Adams. And let’s not forget the arrival of outfielder Oscar Taveras (Dominican Republic), who should respond well to Molina’s influence and guidance.
While it may surprise many that the Cardinals made Molina their second-highest paid player, the team can easily afford it given the movement of contracts. But, more importantly, it retains Molina’s steadying influence on a team that will be getting much younger (and cheaper) as the franchise moves into new and uncharted territory. Trust me, fans will be glad to have Molina on this team grooming the new generation of Cardinals. His leadership and skills will look like a bargain once this contract is finished.