By Joe Pantorno
Yadier Molina is the oldest available free-agent catcher on the market this offseason, but that isn’t stopping both the Mets and Yankees from doing their due diligence.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported on Thursday that both New York teams reached out to the St. Louis Cardinals legend, who has spent all 17 of his professional seasons with the NL Central club.
The Cardinals are deemed the “likely favorite,” per Heyman, but Molina’s desire for a two-year deal — and the unpredictability of MLB’s markets following financial losses from a COVID-19 season — could make things interesting.
It’s no secret that Molina is on his last legs in Major League Baseball, but he is still one of the game’s more productive backstops — especially from a defensive standpoint.
He is still widely regarded as the best defensive catcher in the game while his offense is just about on par with MLB’s current backstopping landscape — which isn’t saying much. Over his last four seasons, Molina has slashed .268/.312/.419 with averages of 13 home runs and 57 RBI.
The interest from both the Mets and Yankees, though, seems to be as a secondary option — a source suggested to amNewYork Metro on Thursday morning. Both clubs are expected to have much larger catching targets on their radars during the winter, whether that’s in the form of JT Realmuto or James McCann.
The Mets have made their desire for a No. 1 catcher clear after declining the club option on veteran Wilson Ramos’ contract. For as long as new owner Steve Cohen was even linked to taking over the Mets, the link to Realmuto lasted.
As for the Yankees, the initial perception is that the Gary Sanchez era is over in the Bronx after another dismal offensive showing further exposed his defensive shortcomings.
There is still plenty of promise in Sanchez’s bat, especially from a power standpoint, but interest in Molina suggests that the Yankees are indeed looking for other options.
It remains to be seen if that also means going after Realmuto.
The 29-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, further cementing his place as the best catcher in baseball. But a backstop with hip and knee issues the last few years coupled with a potential high asking price in a long-term deal could scare suitors away — including the Mets and the Yankees.
Should his demands come in the range of a five-year deal between $100 million-$125 million, though, it’s open season with a bidding war on the horizon.
McCann is already 30 but is seen as a cheaper alternative to Realmuto. Over the last two years with the Chicago White Sox, he is posting 162-game averages of .276/.334/.474 with 28 home runs and 82 RBI.