ST. LOUIS -- After signing a three-year, $60 million contract extension that runs through 2020, catcher Yadier Molina said he envisions spending his entire career as a Cardinal.
"This is the right place to be," Molina said. "I'm happy to be here. This is a great organization, a winning organization. I'm a winning player. I see myself doing good stuff from now on, especially winning another World Series. One or two more. Three more. Four? That's my idea. We've got a great team."
The Cardinals said they viewed Molina as a "legacy," player, one with Hall of Fame credentials who could pull off the rare feat of playing his entire career with one organization. Molina broke into the bigs in 2004, when current manager Mike Matheny went on the disabled list. As a player with 10 years of service time, five with the same team, Molina has blanket no-trade protection.
"It's unique to be able to sign a player that, when this contract ends, is going to have 17 years in this organization, especially in a time when you think about how active free agency. Both Mr. DeWitt and myself and the organization, we were motivated to try to find a way to make this work."
The Cardinals announced that the contract was finalized on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium. The deal takes effect in 2018 and will keep Molina in St. Louis through at least 2020. He'll earn $14 million this season under his current contract.
"Yadi's contributions since his major league debut in 2004 have been historic," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "He set the standard for defensive excellence during this generation."
Molina called it a "hard week," as he contemplated the possibility of reaching free agency following the season.
"It's a great honor, especially to be part of this organization for a lifetime. I really wanted to be here since the beginning," Molina said. "It's a great honor."
Molina's current contract, signed ahead of the 2012 season, contained a mutual $15 million option for 2018 with a $2 million buyout. He is making $14 million for the 2017 season.
His strong play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, coupled with his hot hitting following the 2016 All-Star break and his comments after returning from the competition, had put pressure on the Cardinals to get a deal done as quickly as possible.
Molina's biggest impact to the Cardinals over the years has been in run prevention. He became the full-time starter in 2005 and made seven All-Star teams while winning eight Gold Gloves.
Just when his hitting seemed to be in serious decline, Molina, 34, batted .365 with a .926 OPS following last season's All-Star break.
ESPN's Marly Rivera contributed to this report.