Yadier Molina eyeing free agency if new contract not reached by opening day

How does that happen?

The clock is ticking if the St. Louis Cardinals are serious about keeping catcher Yadier Molina beyond the 2017 season.

The seven-time All-Star and perennial Gold Glove winner is in the final year of his contractand he told MLB.com he's not afraid to test free agency after this season.

Molinasays he doesn't plan to negotiate a new deal past the Cardinals' opening day, April 2.

"I would love to," he said, regarding possibly testing free agency."I mean, I would love to stay, but at the same time, I'm not afraid to go to free agency. I've still got many years in the tank, believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. Believe me, I'm not afraid to go to free agency."

Molina, a fan favorite in St. Louis, turns 35 in July, but he's still playing at a high level.He hit .307 last year with an OPS of .787, well above his career average of .738. He's still one of the best in the game defensively behind the plate.

But Molina willmake $14 million this season, and presumably would demand that much or more as a free agent. Although the Cardinals and Molina hold amutual optionfor him to remain in St. Louis in 2018, MLB.com reported he is unlikely to exercise that option.

That leaves the Cardinals another week or so to strike a new deal.

"We have one more week to talk about it and after that I'm going to concentrate on my game," Molina told MLB.com."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. I'm going to try and concentrate on myself."

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