MLB Free Agents 2020: Latest Rumors, Predictions for Yadier Molina, Top Targets
Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina have been vital parts of the St. Louis Cardinals' success for over a decade, but they are not guaranteed to return to the ball club for the 2021 Major League Baseball season.
Both players could leave the National League Central in free agency since there has been interest across the league in the duo.
Molina reportedly has a few options to consider, while Wainwright could use an old connection to find a major league home outside of St. Louis for the first time in his career.
There is always a chance both players return to St. Louis, but the interest elsewhere could be too strong for them to resist.
Kevin Gausman appears to have a better chance of returning to the San Francisco Giants, as the NL West squad reportedly has interest in making him part of its rotation for a few years.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Molina has been contacted by three additional teams, and the Cardinals make four teams interested."
The 38-year-old backstop has been with the Cardinals since 2004 and could be a coveted veteran for a team in search of catching depth, or one that needs help bringing along a top prospect.
While it may intrigue Molina to land elsewhere, he could stay with the organization that he called home for 20 years.
“I’ve known Yadi since he was drafted,” Mozeliak said. “He’s been an iconic figure to this organization. I could tell you how tough I am and what a great negotiator I am, but I’m human. There are parts of your decision making that will inherently be drawn to that relationship."
Since Molina and Matt Wieters are both free agents, the Cardinals' top catching option would be Andrew Knizner, who played in eight games in 2020, if they did not sign a free agent.
It could be in St. Louis' best interest to bring back Molina to help with the transition to Knizner, or another new backstop, before the two parties part ways completely.
Molina can still pack some power in a reduced role. He had four home runs and recorded a .662 OPS and .262 batting average in the truncated 2020 season.
When he is not in the lineup, Molina could be a vital asset to the younger pitchers on the St. Louis staff, especially the hurlers that did not pitch much in 2020, or come up from the minors in 2021.
Prediction: Molina works out a deal with St. Louis.
St. Louis may have to say goodbye to Wainwright if the draw of returning home to Georgia becomes a reality.
According to The Athletic's David O'Brien, "the Braves are interested in bringing home the 39-year-old Georgia native."
Atlanta tried to benefit from bringing in a veteran starter in 2020, but Cole Hamels was unable to get on the mound due to injuries.
The Braves have plenty of young talent in their rotation with Max Fried, Mike Soroka and Ian Anderson, but they need an experienced arm or two to help them navigate the rigors of a 162-game regular season and the playoffs.
Wainwright finished 5-3 with a 3.15 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 14 walks in 2020 for the Cardinals. The ERA total marked the first time he finished under four since 2014.
If he landed with the franchise that drafted him and his former minor-league manager Brian Snitker, Wainwright would be asked to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter behind the young arms. He would also provide insurance for Atlanta as Soroka works back from an Achilles injury.
If Wainwright leaves St. Louis, Atlanta appears to be the most likely destination because of his connections to the club and the potential to win a World Series title.
Prediction: Wainwright leaves St. Louis to join Atlanta.
According to The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly, the Giants will send an $18.9 million qualifying offer in Gausman's direction and the two parties have had talks on a multi-year deal.
Gausman was one of the pleasant surprises of the 60-game campaign, as he produced 79 strikeouts in 59.2 innings and had a 3-3 record.
It makes sense for San Francisco to pursue a multi-year deal with Gausman based off his 2020 performance and improvement over the last two years in strikeouts-per-nine innings.
In 2019, Gausman produced his first total over 10 in that category while splitting time between Atlanta and Cincinnati. He had a career high 11.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings in 2020.
If he keeps up the strikeout pace over a full season, the Giants could have a solid one-two punch with Gausman and Johnny Cueto and they could develop some younger arms without much pressure beneath them in the rotation.
Accepting the qualifying offer and negotiating a longer deal could make sense from the player's perspective too if he wants to lock down a constant home base after pitching for four different franchises in the last three seasons.
Prediction: Gausman, Giants agree on a multi-year deal.
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Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference.