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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Yadier Molina

The Bombers could definitely use Molina’s defensive prowess, but he will probably return to St. Louis and is no longer a good hitter

Wild Card Round - St Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres - Game Three Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Yankees received very little production from their catchers in 2020. Gary Sánchez, the starter to begin the year, had a negative -0.1 fWAR in 49 games, with a paltry .147/.253/.365 line and a 69 wRC+ despite hitting ten homers. Kyle Higashioka replaced him in the lineup for most of the playoffs, but he only played in 16 regular season contests and is a career 55 wRC+ hitter.

While Higashioka is a superior defensive option, especially at blocking balls in the dirt, he probably isn’t a viable long-term solution. Sánchez, on the other hand, still has the offensive potential that has made him one of the best hitting catchers of his generation. For his career, he has a .502 slugging percentage and a 117 wRC+, and despite his evident issues to make consistent contact in 2020, his 13.8 swinging strike rate was not too far off his 12.8 career mark. Over a larger sample size, he has some serious bounce-back potential.

Of course, whether we see Sánchez as the starting catcher in 2021 or not depends on what the organization decides to do with him. The Yankees have indicated that they are willing to listen to trade offers on him, but there hasn’t been any reported interest so far. His trade value might be at an all-time low.

If the Yankees choose to trade Sánchez, they will likely bring an alternative via free agency to play most of the nights. Yadier Molina, who has won multiple World Series in a fantastic career, is available for just money. Could he be an option for the Bombers?

Molina obviously prefers to stay in St. Louis to finish his career with the Cardinals. He is a legend there, will likely play every day without question, and is giving them every opportunity to secure a deal. He reportedly wants a two-year deal, which at 38 years old, would see him enter the market (or perhaps retire) at 40.

The Yankees could surely benefit from Molina’s leadership and excellent defense behind the plate. He had a 5.0 defensive rating per FanGraphs (Fielding Runs) and was in the 73rd percentile in framing. He remains a very good defensive catcher.

The problem, besides the unlikelihood of Molina leaving St. Louis, is this:

Molina was never exactly Mike Piazza as an offensive force, but he was actually very good at his peak, between 2011 and 2013. He finished with 126, 138, and 133 wRC+ marks during those years.

However, Molina’s offense has declined, which is natural. At this point, 2013 was a long time. He slashed .262/.303/.359 with a .290 wOBA and 82 wRC+ in 2020. That’s decidedly below-average production. It may be justified if he keeps being a good defensive catcher, but the Yankees may prefer to stick with Sánchez even if they reportedly showed interest in Molina at one point in the offseason.

It’s highly unlikely that Molina accepts a backup role or some sort of timeshare away from St. Louis. So, if he comes to the Yankees, it’ll be as the starting backstop, which would mean that the team moved on from Sánchez. I don’t see it happening, especially since they could have very easily non-tendered him earlier in December.

When all is said and done, I believe Molina, who has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career so far, will return to St. Louis. The Yankees could, however, bring a lower-profile catcher to the organization later down the road in the offseason.