C Yadier Molina agrees to $10M contract for ’22 with Cards

ST. LOUIS (AP) — All-Star catcher Yadier Molina will return for his 19th and likely final season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022, agreeing to a $10 million deal that represents a $1 million raise.

St. Louis announced Tuesday afternoon that its longtime catcher has agreed to a one-year contract.

Molina, 39, broke into the majors with the Cardinals in 2004 and never left after taking over the catching chores from Mike Matheny. He has played 2,119 games, including 2,080 behind the plate — the most of any catcher for one team. Only Stan Musial (22) has played more seasons solely for the Cardinals.

The 10-time All-Star helped St. Louis win the World Series in 2006 and 2011.

His deal includes a hotel suite on road trips and a full no-trade provision, even though he has the right to block trades as a 10-year veteran who has been with his club for five seasons.

The Bayamon, Puerto Rico, native is a .280 hitter with 168 homers and 983 RBIs heading into Tuesday night’s game series opener against Detroit. He has 2,089 hits and 397 doubles.

Molina entered Wednesday batting .259 with a .304 on-base percentage, a .3755t slugging percentage, eight homers and 51 RBIs in 95 games this season.

“On behalf of the Cardinals and our fans, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Yadier Molina will continue his franchise legacy for another season in 2022,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Yadi has continued to play at an All-Star level this season, and has already established himself among the greatest players to have ever worn the birds on the bat.”

Molina was not made available for comment before the game.

“We are pleased to announce that Yadi has agreed to cement his career legacy with the Cardinals for a final season in 2022,” Cardinals president John Mozeliak said in a statement. “His experience, leadership, work ethic and winning desire are all part of what we value as an organization.”

Molina was a free agent this offseason for the first time in his career but signed a one-year, $9 million deal in February to return to the Cardinals. He said earlier this month he did not want to go into free agency again and would like to get something done with St. Louis.

Molina and Adam Wainwright have paired up for 298 games, ranking fourth in major league history in games started as battery mates.

The catcher has continually shined in the playoffs, too — he is the active major league leader in postseason games played and hits (both 101). The games played total ranks first in NL history and sixth in the majors.

Among major league catchers, Molina is fourth in games caught (2,080) and starts at catcher (2,014), fifth in innings caught (17,441 2/3), fourth in pickoffs (52); second in putouts (14,446) and total chances (15,551) and 10th in caught stealing percentage (40.4%).

He got his 2,000th hit last September — the 11th primary catcher to reach the milestone — and earlier this month surpassed Albert Pujols for fourth on the Cardinals’ hits list.

Molina was the recipient of the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award, MLB’s highest service-based honor. Molina’s off-the-field philanthropic efforts include Foundation 4, a charity that helps underprivileged children in Puerto Rico. Molina raised more than $800,000 in relief funds following Hurricane Maria in 2017. He was also voted the 2015 Darryl Kile Award recipient by his teammates.

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