TCN St. Louis Cardinals 2021 Top Story #4: Molina and Wainwright Forge Ahead

photo: Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

In today’s world of shorter productive careers for players and a system that incents free agency, those major leaguers who remain with a single club for two decades make up a very short list.

Heading into the 2021 season, two career St. Louis Cardinals, pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina, were approaching that 20-year milestone as one of the most enduring and decorated batteries in the history of the game.

Yet, the combination of the financial setbacks suffered across MLB in 2020 due to COVID, the pair’s expiring contracts and the fact they were both approaching 40 years of age led the Cardinals to take a pause on securing the services of the duo for the 2021 season.

Adam Wainwright

After two years of receiving and agreeing to one-year deals quickly after the conclusion of the prior season, Wainwright did not receive another offer from the club in as timely of a manner as usual.

Still, Wainwright was the first of the two to finally agree to terms with the Cardinals, but it came after three months spent on the open market as a free agent. The 17-year MLB veteran agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract on January 29, 2021. Wainwright noted at the time that he received two offers from other teams that were more lucrative.

Yadier Molina

It took even longer for Molina to receive an acceptable offer to return home for an 18th season. The future Hall of Fame catcher settled on his one-year, $9 million contract just before 2021 spring camp opened, on February 8.

Coming off a three-year, $60 million contract, Molina entertained offers from other teams as a free agent, and even played in winter ball back home in Puerto Rico, but the longer the off-season continued, the more likely his re-signing with St. Louis became. Yet it took what seemed like forever to get it done.

The two delivered on their promise during the 2021 season. Molina generated 1.0 fWAR and again was a top three finisher in the Gold Glove Award voting while Wainwright led the entire staff with 3.8 fWAR, his best season since 2014.

Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals)

They were asked back for 2022, but this time around, the Cardinals seemed to make the new contracts a priority.

In fact, Molina’s 2022 return was sealed before the 2021 schedule concluded. On August 25th, his $10 million contract for the upcoming season was announced. While 2022 may be the 39-year-old’s final season, Molina has changed his mind before.

Wainwright’s deal for 2022 was announced on October 4. It is worth $17.5 million, more than double his 2021 salary. The now-40-year-old is strongly hinting it will be his final season.

One thing is for sure. The two long-time Cardinals will again be creating memories and setting records in 2022. They will take many more bows and curtain calls from the Busch Stadium faithful.

But will they be able to ride into the sunset with their club at the very top of the game? It would only seem fitting, but even this highly accomplished duo can’t do it alone.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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