The Cardinals are approaching the end of what will be a nine-year relationship with catcher Yadier Molina barring an extension beyond 2012. Over that 9 year period, Molina will have earned something in the neighborhood of $25M according to Cot’s Contracts. It’s almost certain that Molina would have been a starting catcher on the merits of his defense alone but he has also proven a capable hitter at the plate.
From 2004-2011, Yadier Molina ranks 8th in Fangraphs’ WAR among catchers. This understates his talent though as defensive rankings for catchers are rudimentary. While other catchers are getting nearly full credit for their talent since they are offense first players (e.g. Jorge Posada), Yadier Molina doesn’t even crack the top 30 in wOBA over that time period. There’s a compelling rationale that Molina is a top 5 catcher during his MLB tenure.
The Cardinals have become accustomed in recent years to consistency in their backstop. Prior to Molina, now manager Mike Matheny was the primary catcher from 2000-2004. Matheny personified the Cardinals desire for a defensive catcher in spite of offensive shortcomings. Loved by his pitchers, Matheny was nothing short of anemic at the plate. Posting a .277 wOBA, about .055 points worse than league average or 3 wins below league average on offense, Matheny was still behind the plate for no less than 110 games each year.