The Cardinals will bring back free-agent catcher Yadier Molina on a one-year, $9M deal, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. This isn’t a remotely surprising development, as multiple sources reported a little over a week ago that Molina would remain in St. Louis.
Molina has been a Cardinal dating back to the 2000 draft, when they chose him in the fourth round. He debuted in the majors in 2004 and has since batted .281/.333/.404 with 160 home runs in 2,025 plate appearances, though simply citing his offensive numbers doesn’t do Molina justice. He is, after all, a nine time-All Star and a nine-time Gold Glove winner who has always been a highly regarded clubhouse leader and could wind up in the Hall of Fame. The soon-to-be 39-year-old Molina also has a pair of World Series on his resume, further adding to his mystique in St. Louis.

Molina received interest from other clubs earlier this winter, but a return to the Cardinals has looked like an inevitability for weeks. A reunion between the two has seemingly become even more probable since the Cardinals kicked their offseason into high gear in late January. Dating back to then, they have re-signed right-hander Adam Wainwright, who’s close with Molina and also ranks as a franchise icon, and swung a massive deal with the Rockies for superb third baseman Nolan Arenado.
Molina will once again line up as the Cardinals’ No. 1 catcher in 2021. While Molina isn’t the star he was in earlier years, he did bat .262/.303/.359 (passable relative to his position) in 156 plate appearances last season and throw out an eye-popping 45 percent of would-be base thieves. It appears he’ll once again mentor younger Cards backstop Andrew Knizner during the upcoming campaign.
Molina’s exit from the open market will take away another option at catcher, which is arguably devoid of starting-caliber free agents there. MLBTR ranked Molina as the 32nd-best overall free agent at the start of the offseason and predicted he would re-sign with the Cards on a one-year, $10M contract.


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It took more than two months, but high-end free agents have finally come flying off the board in Major League Baseball over the past few weeks. J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, DJ LeMahieu, Didi Gregorius, Masahiro Tanaka, Liam Hendriks, Michael Brantley, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, Joc Pederson, Jose Quintana and Nelson Cruz – all among MLBTR’s top 20 free agents when the offseason began – have agreed to deals since 2021 opened. 
The open market does still feature several notable names from MLBTR’s rankings, though, as you’ll see below. (Number indicates ranking at the start of the offseason.)

1.) Trevor Bauer, RHP (original prediction: four years, $128M)The reigning NL Cy Young winner remains without an employer as spring training approaches, though a resolution could come very soon. It may now be a two-horse race between the Mets and Dodgers to secure Bauer’s services.
4.) Marcell Ozuna, OF/DH (original prediction: four years, $72M)Ozuna is still in limbo partly because MLB hasn’t announced whether the universal DH will return in 2021. He spent most of his season there last year with Atlanta and was a premier hitter in terms of both bottom-line production and Statcast figures. The Dodgers, Brewers, Yankees, Red Sox and Twins have been connected to Ozuna in the rumor mill. The Twins have since agreed to re-sign DH Nelson Cruz, so Ozuna may have lost one suitor this week.
11.) Jake Odorizzi, RHP (original prediction: three years, $39M)While Odorizzi went through a difficult and injury-shortened year in 2020, the Twins are still interested in re-signing him. At least a few other teams are targeting the 30-year-old, so he figures to land on his feet with a nice deal in the coming weeks.

14.) Justin Turner, 3B (original prediction: two years, $24M)There appear to be four finalists for Turner, who has been a tremendous contributor for the Dodgers dating back to his 2014 breakout. A return to the Dodgers is on the table, though Turner’s age (36) is working against him when it comes to earning power. It’s possible neither Los Angeles nor any other team will give him more than a two-year deal.
21.) Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (original prediction: two years, $16M)With George Springer off the board, Bradley is undoubtedly the premier center field option left in free agency. The longtime member of the Red Sox, 30, has received interest from Boston, the Mets and the Giants over the past couple of weeks. He’s reportedly shooting for “a significant contract,” possibly for more than four years.
22.) James Paxton, LHP (original prediction: one year, $10M)Paxton held a showcase that up to 20 teams attended at the end of December, and it apparently went well. The Blue Jays, Mets, Cardinals and Phillies are among the clubs that have shown some interest in the 32-year-old Canadian. Paxton endured an injury-wrecked 2020 with the Yankees, so he’s not a free agent at the best time, but he’s only two seasons removed from putting up very good production and has historically held his own when healthy.

23.) Taijuan Walker, RHP (original prediction: two years, $16M)After a trade from the Mariners, Walker closed the year with the flourish as a member of the Blue Jays, though it’s unclear whether they’re interested in re-signing him. The 28-year-old combined for a 2.70 ERA in 53 1/3 innings between the two teams, but that came with a much less impressive 4.60 SIERA and below-average strikeout and swinging-strike rates.
27.) Trevor Rosenthal, RP (original prediction: two years, $14M)The former St. Louis closer was brilliant last season between the Royals and Padres, which came after a couple of trying years owing to injury and poor performance. Rosenthal is now the No. 1 reliever left on the board. San Diego and Toronto are a couple of the teams that have considered him so far.
32.) Yadier Molina, C (original prediction: one year, $10M)While Molina has gotten interest from other teams this offseason, a reunion with the Cardinals seems inevitable. The 38-year-old has been been part of the organization since it drafted him in 2000, and indications are that he and the Cards want to stick together.
46.) Rick Porcello, RHP (original prediction: one year, $5M)Porcello is nowhere near the AL Cy Young winner he was with the Red Sox in 2016, but he remains an innings eater who can at least fill out the back of a team’s rotation. However, the rumor mill centering on the 32-year-old has been quiet this winter.

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