photo: Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)
One of the annual rites of Major League Baseball the day after the completion of the World Series is eligible free agents making their declarations. This year, 147 players across the game have exercised their right to seek new employment for next season. (Joining them later in the day were a series of players whose options were declined, including Kolten Wong.)
The Cardinals retain exclusive negotiating rights for the first five days of free agency, after which the free agents can negotiation with any MLB club.
Wainwright and Molina, both MLB career Cardinals, were expected to be a priority of the club to re-sign – before the depth of the team’s payroll cuts were hinted upon by team president of baseball operations John Mozeliak late Wednesday afternoon.
Wieters and Miller may not return for 2021 – or if they do, it likely would not be until very late in the offseason or maybe even after camp opens. Wieters went through this process last winter, as well, and his future with the team may be directly opposed to Molina’s.
Miller’s best/only chance of being asked back would seem to be if the National League continues to deploy the designated hitter in 2021. This is one of many questions surrounding next season about which Mozeliak hopes to get “some sense directionally” during the (virtual) General Manager Meetings next week.
Wainwright may be the easier sign of the two long-time Cardinals. The 39-year old is coming off two consecutive one-year contracts with a moderate annual base ($5 million in 2020) plus incentives that could double the total after receiving $19.5 million in each of the prior five seasons.
On the other hand, Molina is coming off three years of making $20 million per year and wants a new two-year commitment that would carry him until he turns 40. Finding a middle ground that suits both sides in a tough financial environment may take considerably longer – if solvable at all.
The longest-serving battery in team history both say they want to return to St. Louis for 2021, but the negotiating period has just begin. They have even hinted they would consider a new destination together, but employ different agent firms, limiting the practicality of the thought.
Mozeliak said Wednesday that he had already spoken with representatives for both players and planned to do so again before this week’s exclusive negotiating period is out.
However, he did not sound optimistic that quick deals would be struck with either, simply noting, “I imagine they will go to (the free agent) market.”
By the club letting Wong go, they have sent a clear signal that money is going to be tight – in what has to be a concerning message for Wainwright and Molina, as well as Cardinals fans.
The aforementioned free agent quartet plus Wong mean that five spots opened up in the Cardinals’ already-full 40-man roster.
However, all five spots were immediately gobbled up by the five 45-day injured list players who were required to be restored to the roster for the offseason. All five are pitchers – starters Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson and relievers Jordan Hicks, John Brebbia and Ricardo Sanchez.
As a result, while some of the names have changed, the roster remains full.
The aforementioned Sanchez had Tommy John surgery two weeks ago in St. Louis. The procedure was performed by Dr. George Paletta. The ramification of the left-hander having to sit out all of the 2021 season makes his 40-man roster spot even more tenuous than it was before.
I would not be surprised to see Sanchez waived next month as prospects need to be protected for the Rule 5 Draft – or if a major league free agent is signed, such as Wainwright or Molina, for example.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt had a bone spur removed from his right (throwing) elbow and is expected to be ready for the 2021 season.
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