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Monday, January 21, 2008
Catcher Yadier Molina and St. Louis Cardinals agree to $15.5 million, 4-year contract

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals teammates say Yadier Molina, one of the top defensive catchers in the major leagues, is a bargain at any price.

"Yadier is the best catcher in the game, period," pitcher Adam Wainwright said Monday after Molina agreed to a $15.5 million, four-year contact. "The fact he has never won a Gold Glove is a joke. You don't have to worry about the running game, all you have to do is make the pitch. And you have confidence to throw any pitch at any time and know he's going to catch it."

Molina threw out 50 percent of would-be basestealers last year, catching 23 of 46. He's also coming off a career-best .275 average, with six homers and 40 RBIs in 111 games.

Molina hit the go-ahead home run in the ninth inning of the Cardinals' seven-game NLCS victory over the New York Mets in 2006 and was 7-for-12 in the World Series, helping St. Louis win its first championship in 24 seasons.

The 25-year-old had asked for a raise from $525,000 to $2.75 million in salary arbitration and the Cardinals had offered $1.85 million.

Manager Tony La Russa said Molina is mature for his age, and thus there was no risk in giving him a long-term deal. He said Molina and Albert Pujols have a similar work ethic.

"You've got to be careful who you give it to because some guys are going to change," La Russa said. "There's no doubt in any of our minds that him being richer for longer will not change anything about the way he goes about it."

Molina gets a $250,000 signing bonus, $1.75 million this year, $3.25 million in 2009, $4.25 million in 2010 and $5.25 million in 2011. The deal includes a $7 million club option for 2012 with a $750,000 buyout, and the option increases to $7.5 million if he is traded.

"Were we willing to make a long-term commitment?" general manager John Mozeliak said. "Ultimately that was both of our goals."

Molina hit a career-best .275 with six homers and 40 RBIs in 111 games last season, missing significant time with a broken left wrist. He's the younger brother of two other major league catchers, Bengie Molina of the Giants and Jose Molina of the Yankees.

"I love being here," Molina said. "I love being a Cardinal. We made a good deal. It won't change anything, I'm going to play hard like I always do."

Right-hander Todd Wellemeyer is the last St. Louis player remaining in arbitration. He asked for a raise from $635,000 to $1,325,000 and was offered $875,000.