SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Originally, Yadier Molina's plan was to play through the end of his current contract, trade in his pads and catcher's mitt maybe for a fungo bat and some time as a coach for Team Puerto Rico or a guest instructor with the Cardinals, and then wait for the time to get fitted for a red coat.
He's willing to push that off at least a year, maybe two.
Molina, whose current contract expires at the end of the 2020 season, would like to play through 2021 and possibly 2022, the Cardinals were told Tuesday during baseball's General Managers Meetings. The Cardinals met with Molina's agent, Melvin Roman, who also represents left fielder Marcell Ozuna.
The Cardinals intend to have a conversation with Roman and Molina about a contract extension during spring training. His current deal was negotiated during spring training, and it's customary for the Cardinals to work through extension negotiations during spring training, as they did with Paul Goldschmidt, Miles Mikolas, and Matt Carpenter this past spring.
Molina will turn 38 during the middle of the coming season. If he plays into 2022, he will turn 40 near the All-Star break of that season.
Several years ago Johnny Bench, arguably the best ever to play the catcher position, told the Post-Dispatch that Molina was on a Hall of Fame path for his career and only needed to burnish his counting numbers.
Molina hit .270 with a .399 slugging percentage this past year. He has moved into the top 10 all-time for games caught and is among the all-time leaders in innings caught and innings caught with one team. The Cardinals drafted Molina in the fourth round of 2000, and he reached the majors in 2004, taking over as full-time catcher the next season. Molina was a finalist for the Gold Glove Award this past season and has won nine in his career.
ANGELS HIRE ‘ORACLE’ LA RUSSA
An offer from the Los Angeles Angels has reunited Hall of Fame Tony La Russa with Albert Pujols and put him in a prominent spot in a baseball brain trust that also includes former Cubs manager Joe Maddon. The Angels announced Tuesday the hiring of La Russa as an adviser to the general manager and baseball operations department.
Billy Eppler, the Angels’ GM, joked that La Russa's title will be “the oracle.”
La Russa had recently been with Boston’s front office, and though he remained after sweeping changes made by the Red Sox, the Angels were granted permission recently to approach him with a role. The winningest manager in Cardinals history will be involved in observing and evaluating the team’s spring training and helping with the team’s “teaching progression,” Eppler said.
La Russa will likely spend one homestand a month with the big-league team, attend a road series or so a month, and also have scheduled time in the minors. Eppler also expects La Russa to be a recourse for Maddon, who was hired last month as the Angels’ manager.
“I think selfishly, for me, I’m bringing in someone who can be a sounding board and somebody to listen to who has been through a lot and seen a lot, experienced a lot,” Eppler said. “And has a keen eye for everything going on.”
The Cardinals have encouraged infielder Yairo Munoz to play winter ball in the Dominican to regain some of the at-bats he didn’t get in a part-time role during the season. Lefty Genesis Cabrera, whose evaluation as a prospect caught fire with his work in relief last winter, could pitch between 30 and 40 innings in the Dominican Winter League with the Cardinals’ blessing so that he could, this year, stretch out and be ready to compete as a starter in spring training.