Yadier Molina gets four-year, $15.5 million contract with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals teammates say Yadier Molina, one of
the top defensive catchers in the major leagues, is a bargain at
any price.

"Yadier is the best catcher in the game, period," pitcher Adam Wainwright said Monday after Molina agreed to a $15.5 million,
four-year contact. "The fact he has never won a Gold Glove is a
joke. You don't have to worry about the running game, all you have
to do is make the pitch. And you have confidence to throw any pitch
at any time and know he's going to catch it."

Molina threw out 50 percent of would-be basestealers last year,
catching 23 of 46. He's also coming off a career-best .275 average,
with six homers and 40 RBIs in 111 games.

Molina hit the go-ahead home run in the ninth inning of the
Cardinals' seven-game NLCS victory over the New York Mets in 2006
and was 7-for-12 in the World Series, helping St. Louis win its
first championship in 24 seasons.

The 25-year-old had asked for a raise from $525,000 to $2.75
million in salary arbitration and the Cardinals had offered $1.85

Manager Tony La Russa said Molina is mature for his age, and
thus there was no risk in giving him a long-term deal. He said
Molina and Albert Pujols have a similar work ethic.

"You've got to be careful who you give it to because some guys
are going to change," La Russa said. "There's no doubt in any of
our minds that him being richer for longer will not change anything
about the way he goes about it."

Molina gets a $250,000 signing bonus, $1.75 million this year,
$3.25 million in 2009, $4.25 million in 2010 and $5.25 million in
2011. The deal includes a $7 million club option for 2012 with a
$750,000 buyout, and the option increases to $7.5 million if he is

"Were we willing to make a long-term commitment?" general
manager John Mozeliak said. "Ultimately that was both of our

Molina missed significant time last season with a broken left
wrist. He's the younger brother of two other major league catchers,
Bengie Molina of the Giants and Jose Molina of the Yankees.

"I love being here," Molina said. "I love being a Cardinal.
We made a good deal. It won't change anything, I'm going to play
hard like I always do."

Right-hander Todd Wellemeyer is the last St. Louis player
remaining in arbitration. He asked for a raise from $635,000 to
$1,325,000 and was offered $875,000.