A few months after the St. Louis Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to the Las Angeles Angels, they signed catcher Yadier Molina to an extension. One can infer from the timing that, losing Pujols freed up the money the Cards needed to make the Molina deal and, with that, the Cardinals made Molina the face of the franchise.
Of course, ask any Cardinals fan back then who they would rather have, they would say Pujols. Now, I'm not so sure.
In his first American League season, Pujols struggled out of the gate and had the worst season of his career (albeit still a very good season). Meanwhile, Molina had a breakout year for the Cards.
Which leads to the question is Molina more valuable that Pujols, at least going forward?
Looking at their raw stats, there is not much difference between the two:
Pujols - .285/.343/.516, .859 OPS (141 OPS+), 30 HR's
Molina - .315/.373/.501, .874 OPS (137 OPS+), 22 HR's
However, when you look at their sabermetrics, its pretty clear that Molina had the better year.
Take, for instance, their 2012 wins above replacement (WAR) per Fangraphs:
Pujols 3.6 WAR
Molina 6.2 WAR
In addition, Pujols has been in a steady decline over the last few years. Here are his WAR's from 2009 to 2012:
At the same time, Molina's WARs have increased the last few years:
Pujols, at 33, is 3 years older than Molina (and some still question if that is Pujols' true age) and appears to be in the decline phase of his career. While Molina is still in his prime.
Plus, WAR cannot measure the intangibles that Molina brings, such as handling the pitching staff, as well as things like framing pitches to get a called strike.
That's not to say that Pujols cannot have a bounce back year or that Molina might, as a catcher, go into a decline earlier than most everyday players. But, going forward, I think that Molina will be the better value and considering that he makes $10 million less a year, he is an absolute bargain.