JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- Yadier Molina gave the Cardinals a one-week window to negotiate a contract extension when he returned to Cardinal camp Sunday.
He believes too many catchers out-earn him ($14.2 million in 2017) and wants a salary more commensurate with his status as one of the best two catchers of his era. If the Cardinals aim to provide it, in the form of a multi-year extension, he wanted that finished before the season opens on April 2.
The Cardinals packed up and left Jupiter Wednesday. They did so with Molina’s contract status still uncertain.
“The clock is still running. I haven't heard anything,” Molina said before boarding the team bus bound for the airport. “I haven't talked with my agent yet, so there might be progress. But I don't know.”
If the two sides are close to consensus, they are hiding it well. GM John Mozeliak gave no indications of how negotiations were going, and his comments didn’t betray whether he felt optimism with just four days left before Molina’s deadline passes.
“I think everyone is going to roll up their sleeves and continue to work at it,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve always said we’re always open for business. So, we don’t have any hard deadlines but we certainly recognize when someone gives us one.”
Mozeliak and Molina’s agent Melvin Roman have known each other for many years, and the GM previously believed if they two sides came to terms even after the April 2 deadline, they may still be able to close the deal.
“If we want to get something done, we have time,” Mozeliak said Sunday.
The team has two exhibition games against their minor league clubs in the next two days. After a game in Memphis Thursday, they head to Springfield, Missouri for their final tuneup before Chicago comes to town Sunday. Molina has been clear once the Cubs arrive, he has no interest in discussing contracts.
“After the opening, I don’t know what’s going to happen. We have one more week to talk about it and after that I’m going to concentrate on my game,” Molina said previously. “Whatever they want to do, like I said, I’d love to stay here, but if they don’t want to spend money, I understand that, too. This is a business.”
In the meantime the fan base is watching. Given his status as a franchise-defining player, Molina is one of a handful of athletes that can hold such leverage in negotiations with their employer. He can press them on the timetable because his departure means more than just lost talent. The financial ramifications of his exit could outweigh the cost of the extension, especially if fans believe the face of the franchise was shortchanged.
The situation could make for a tense working environment within the clubhouse, especially if the Cardinals take a national stage Sunday night with the contract dispute still unresolved.
"I hope not. I think we’re all professionals and we’ve all been through this. I’m hopeful that it won’t be something that in any way effects the club," Mozeliak said.