Cardinals' Updated Lineup After Yadier Molina's Expected 1-Year Contract

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2021

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates after hitting a single for his 2,000th career hit during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Despite some flirtation with other teams this offseason, Yadier Molina is expected to be back as the St. Louis Cardinals starting catcher in 2021. 

Per MLB Network's Jon Morosi, Molina is expected to re-sign no later than by the end of the Caribbean Series. He is currently playing for the Puerto Rican team in winter ball.

Puerto Rico is one of six teams competing in the Caribbean Series, which will run from Jan. 31-Feb. 6. 

Morosi added that Puerto Rico newspaper El Nuevo Dia first reported that Molina will likely sign a one-year deal with the Cardinals. 

Bringing Molina back provides more stability and continuity to a Cardinals roster that currently projects to look similar to last year's squad. 

Here's what St. Louis' projected lineup looks like with Molina expected back:

1. Tommy Edman, 2B

2. Paul DeJong, SS

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

4. Dylan Carlson, LF

5. Dexter Fowler, RF

6. Matt Carpenter, 3B

7. Yadier Molina, C

8. Harrison Bader, CF

9. (Starting Pitcher)

If that lineup looks familiar to Cardinals fans, it's pretty close to the starting nine that manager Mike Shildt used in the final game of 2020 against the Milwaukee Brewers

The only change is Tommy Edman taking over as the everyday second baseman. He was playing every day last season but was used in more of a utility role. The Cardinals have an opening at the keystone because it doesn't seem like they want to bring back Kolten Wong. 

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this week that St. Louis has "have not actively pursued a reunion" with Wong after his $12.5 million option was declined in October. 

Molina is no longer the offensive player that he was at his peak, but he still managed to post a .262/.303/.359 slash line in 42 games last season. The 38-year-old still rates as an elite defender behind the plate. He ranked fourth out of 12 catchers who had at least 150 plate appearances with a 5.0 defensive rating in 2020, per FanGraphs

Per BaseballSavant.com, Molina ranked 11th out of 62 total catchers in getting strikes called on pitches out of the zone. He threw out 45 percent of base-stealers, his highest rate since 2014. 

The National League Central is wide open with the Chicago Cubs getting rid of key players like Yu Darvish and Kyle Schwarber; the Cincinnati Reds don't seem likely to re-sign 2020 Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer; the Brewers have rotation questions behind Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes; the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone all-in on rebuilding their farm system. 

The Cardinals may not have to make any drastic moves the rest of this offseason to be considered the best team in the division, but they could stand to upgrade an offense that ranked 26th in MLB with a .694 OPS and 28th in runs scored (240).

Even though the Cardinals only played 58 games last year, scoring runs was a problem for them the last time there was a full season. They ranked 19th in runs scored (764) and 21st in OPS (.739) in 2019. 

There is one potential blockbuster move out there that would help the Cardinals lineup and defense. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Thursday that St. Louis is talking with the Colorado Rockies about All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado. 

"League sources offered varied assessments of where the talks stood Thursday night," Rosenthal wrote. "One cautioned that a trade might not happen at all, but others believe the Rockies are motivated to move Arenado and the Cardinals are motivated to acquire him."

If the Cardinals can plug Arenado into the middle of their lineup, it would help them close the gap with the NL elites like the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves

As things stand right now, Molina's potential return will go a long way toward keeping the Cardinals in the playoff picture in the National League.