ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 28: (L-R) Yadier Molina #4 and Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate with family after defeating the Texas Rangers 6-2 to win Game Seven of the MLB World Series at Busch Stadium on October 28, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot of questions going into free agency, but Yadier Molina won't be one of them.
In the least surprising move of a pivotal offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals will be picking up Yadier Molina's $7 million club option, keeping their All-Star catcher out of free agency and surprising not a single person in the universe, according to General Manager John Mozeliak (via this Derrick Goold tweet.)
Molina's coming off the best offensive season of his career—in the regular season he hit .305/.349/.465 and set career highs in doubles (32) and home runs (14), combining his usual reluctance to strike out with a new-found power stroke. His OPS+ of 126 was tops in the National League among catchers qualified for the batting title—for the first time in his career he topped the Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann on offense, while playing his usual outstanding defense.
In the postseason he was as good as ever—after a slow NLDS he hit .333 in the NLCS and World Series, driving in nine runs on eight hits in the Cardinals' seven games against the Texas Rangers. In his postseason career he's hit .309 with 13 doubles and two home runs—both in that historic 2006 NLCS—in 50 games.
Molina's club option comes at the tail-end of a four-year contract he signed before the 2008 season worth $15.5 million guaranteed. It became the pattern for all the pre-arbitration deals Mozeliak has pursued since, and it remains one of the most successful.