After bringing back Yadier Molina and making a trade, the catching depth for the St. Louis Cardinals is starting to take shape.
Earlier this week, the St. Louis Cardinals were able to bring back Yadier Molina, who has been a sort of field manager for this team for 16 seasons, winning two World Series, multiple Gold Glove, Platinum Gloves, and earning nine All-Star appearances.
Now in a play-it-by-year phase of his career, Molina, 38, agreed to a one-year contract worth $9 million for 2021.
While we, as Cardinal fans, are happy to have him back for one more year, the team is also making moves in the event Molina is ready to hang up his catching gear. It doesn’t seem likely, but Yadier will turn 39 later this summer.
On Friday, the Cardinals exchanged cash considerations with the New York Mets for Ali Sanchez. He made his major league debut with the Mets in 2020. In November, the team signed Tyler Heineman to a minor league deal. He has played a back-up catching role in the majors for the Miami Marlins and the San Francisco Giants. Heineman also pitched a scoreless inning for the Giants in 2020.
The pair will both compete in Spring Training for the club beginning next week. Sanchez and Heineman will probably spend a majority of their time with the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds. Ultimately, they will serve as backups to Molina’s primary backup, Andrew Knizner.
Knizner is set to begin his first full season in the back-up role for Molina.
Fangraphs Graduation TLDR section notes Knizner would be an everyday player if he could catch, but he has struggled behind the plate in his handful of starts with the major league team. But, he hits a career .232/.280/.362 with a 25.3 K% and a 70 wRC+. He’s definitely an athlete you want to give a shot.
It’s a safe bet the team will keep Knizner fresh and given that shot while waiting on an off day for Molina, who relishes getting behind the plate as much as possible. Knizner will definitely make the trek down I-55 to Memphis to get some games in.
This will allow Heineman or Sanchez the option to head back up I-55 to join the big club in St. Louis.
With catching duties in order for both St. Louis and Memphis, this will allow the Cardinals’ top catching prospect Ivan Herrera to continue his development with Double-A affiliate Springfield. The team doesn’t believe he will impact St. Louis until sometime in 2022.
With Molina back in the fold leading the catching corps, it will be nice to see the team have steady options to lead into the future behind the plate for the Cardinals. Whoever becomes Molina’s heir apparent will have plenty of opportunities this season to develop.