2022 Farewell Tour: Waino, Yadi & … Albert?
Last August, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that they had reached a one-year contract extension with Yadier Molina. The 10 x All-Star wanted to avoid becoming a free agent at season’s end and felt he still had gas in the tank for another season in 2022. He was also seeking a dollar amount that matched or surpassed his $9M 2021 contract, and he succeeded as this deal is worth $10M.
It is widely expected that this will be Molina’s last season, as he himself has hinted at it, and President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has referenced it a few times during interviews.
Molina is coming off a season where he slashed .252/.297/.370 with 11 HR & 66 RBI. Not bad for a 39-year old that is known more for keeping runners at bay, his excellent handling of a pitching staff and his overall defensive prowess.
At seasons end, Molina was a finalist for a Gold Glove Award (which would’ve been his 10th), but was the lone Cardinal nominee not to bring home the hardware. Nonetheless, we know what to expect from Yadi and 2022 shouldn’t be any different.
For his 18 year career, Yadi has a slashline of .280/.330/.402 with 171 HR & 998 RBI.
2× World Series champion (2006, 2011)
9× Gold Glove Award (2008–2015, 2018)
4x Platinum Glove Award (2011-2012, 2014-2015)
Silver Slugger Award (2013)
Roberto Clemente Award (2018)
6× Fielding Bible Award (2007–2010, 2012, 2013)
2× All-World Baseball Classic Team (2013, 2017)
Molina signing for one more season, put some pressure on fellow teammate & battery mate Adam Wainwright to do the same. Waino announced on his bigleagueimpact.org website last October that after contemplating on another season, he asked his wife and kids their opinions. All said “Yes” to a return, and so the 40-year old “Uncle Charlie” announced his decision.
The Cardinals offered Wainwright a one-year $17.5M contract, which was over double the $8M he made in 2021. This was likely in large part because Wainwright out pitched his salary and carried the pitching staff the majority of the 2021 season going 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA, with an astonishing 3 complete games, accumulated 174 strikeouts in 206 1/3 innings.
In 16 seasons for St. Louis, Wainwright has a career 184-105 record, 3.35 ERA, with 2,004 strikeouts in 2,375 2/3 innings.
World Series champion (2006)
2× Gold Glove Award (2009, 2013)
Silver Slugger Award (2017)
Roberto Clemente Award (2020)
2× NL wins leader (2009, 2013)
Between the two, Wainwright & Molina have started 305 games together as battery mates, with the Cardinals winning 200 of those games. They are 20 games away from passing Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan of the Detroit Tigers for the most in baseball history.
In an interview with Frank Cusumano of KSDK last season, he asked Wainwright if that record with Molina would be one of his most special milestones on his career if they obtain it, to which Wainwright answered “Right at the top. I think when you think about baseball, it's been played for so long and so many players have played it. So many legends of the game have played it. If you can get any kind of all-time record right now in today's game, that's a pretty big deal," Wainwright said.
"I'm just blessed to be able to pitch as many games as I have to Yadier. But if we can break that record, that's something we can always, always, always talk about and something we'll always have. Because I'll be honest. I don't think anyone is ever gonna break that record again. That's a cool record to get. It would be a special thing to be known as the all-time battery in any sport ever. It would be crazy."
There is no doubt that seeing those two Cardinals legends for what could be their last season is going to be an emotional rollercoaster with fans packing Busch Stadium for their unofficial “farewell tour”.
That will be something special on it’s own, but the hopes that in this final season they would have a chance to go out on top by winning another World Series championship is something that both fans, as well as Wainwright & Molina couldn’t script a better ending to.
But what if…
What if they were joined in this journey with a missing link to a legendary trifecta? What if now that the National League has adopted the DH, that the Cardinals sign free agent Albert Pujols?
It has been one of the most debatable argument on every social media platform amongst Cardinal fans who some believe this would be the greatest thing ever to bring Albert home, to others still bitter that he left. Some realizing that his role would only be that of a DH, to others stat-checking and rather seeing the team pursue an impact player rather than a nostalgia piece.
I can see the arguments on both sides.
Pujols slashed .236/.284/.433 with a combined 17 HR & 50 RBI between his time with the Angels & Dodgers last season. He is definitely not the player that he once was, and at 42 years old it’s not reasonable to expect better than that going forward.
As it stands now, Pujols is 21 HR away from 700 for his career, and is second on the Cardinals All-Time HR list with 445, which is 30 HR behind Stan Musial’s 475.
Multiple sources have mentioned recently that the St. Louis Cardinals & Seattle Mariners are among at least two clubs that have reached out and had conversations with Pujols about a contract. It’s unclear the details & specifics of those conversations, but the fact that the Cardinals have reached out does excite those fans that are pro bringing Pujols back.
As I mentioned before, Pujols isn’t the player he once was, and obviously his best days were in a Cardinals uniform. For his 21-year MLB career, Pujols has a slashline of .297/.375/.544 with 3,301 hits, 679 HR, 2,150 RBI.
2× World Series champion (2006, 2011)
2× Gold Glove Award (2006, 2010)
2× NL Hank Aaron Award (2003, 2009)
Roberto Clemente Award (2008)
2× NL home run leader (2009, 2010)
If the Cardinals can bring back Pujols on a team-friendly deal, and toy with the idea of platooning Pujols with Juan Yepez or another signing in a DH role, I don’t think it hurts this team any. And if anything aside from production, would be a very knowledgeable baseball player who would bring that to the clubhouse along with the excitement of a fanbase that has welcomed him with open arms each time he’s returned.
I’m not suggesting that signing Pujols makes the Cardinals a favorite to win the 2022 World Series, but I don’t believe that John Mozeliak and company are going to land any big name/high dollar/flashy free-agents that move the needle that far anyway.
I do think the reward outweighs the risk on a reunion, and that all of the #5 merchandise that would get sold and ticket sales to see one final ride, would be more than enough to cover whatever contract it would take to bring Pujols back.
Fans can remember those two historic returns that Pujols had by coming back to Busch Stadium as both an Angel and a Dodger, and if you mix that excitement in with joining Adam Wainwright & Yadier Molina for an ultimate farewell tour… well… that could be one of the most memorable season that we’ve had since (at least) 2011.
And we all know what happened that season.
What are your thoughts & opinions on Albert Pujols finishing his career with St. Louis. Leave a comment and let us know. As always, thanks for reading and Go Cards!