Sadly, the Cardinals’ season ended earlier than we all wanted it to. So close and yet so far from the playoffs! About 2 weeks after the season ends, the fall United Cardinals Bloggers Roundtable begins. The bloggers who are interested in participating in the roundtable pose a question to the other bloggers who are participating, and they then respond. After all of the answers are obtained, we are to take our question and the responses and put them in a blog post. Yesterday was the day for me to post my question. And since I didn’t remember that it was the day for me to post my question until the middle of the day, I only got four responses. Either I missed the window of time that would have gotten the most responses, or no one wanted to think about the ramifications of my question. So here was my question:
As we all know, Yadier Molina will be retiring after the 2020 season. 😭 Carson Kelly was once thought to be the heir apparent, but I think he has lost his luster due to his lackluster hitting. Francisco Pena became Yadi’s backup this season and did a fine job. Andrew Knizner is highly recommended but is still in the minors.So who will replace Yadi in 2021? Will it be one of the aforementioned players? Or will the front office go outside the organization and sign a free agent or trade for a front line catcher?
I know that Yadi said he’s retiring after 2020 but, if he’s still productive, I have a hard time seeing him actually walking away. But let’s say he does walk away. I think the answer to who replaces him depends almost entirely on what kind of trade offers the Cardinals receive for Kelly or Knizner. I think it’s also important to remember that most catchers aren’t like Yadi, they typically take a lot more time to develop and adapt to the major leagues than any other position. I think giving up on Carson Kelly would be premature. Ideally you could have both Carson Kelly and Andrew Knizner on the team and 2021 and let them split time and see who runs with the job but that’s becoming increasingly difficult to see happening as neither have much left to prove in the minor leagues and we’re looking two years down the road.My guess is that one of the two gets traded and the other serves as Yadi’s backup until he retires. They’ll likely sign a veteran catcher to go along with them and make it somewhat of a 60/40 timeshare. I have a really hard time seeing this organization spending top dollar for a catcher.
That seems like a long time from now, and if the Cardinals don’t have another deep postseason run in them before Yadi retires it will be a shame. Like most, I’m not sure that Yadi will retire when his current deal expires, but let’s suppose he does.To Adam’s point, it wouldn’t make sense to give up on Kelly if they don’t get comparable value. That being said, I have serious reservations with what the club has done to his development. They’ve made it an uphill battle for sure. Knizner isn’t there yet, but if he has a great first half, his bat will be ready for the major league challenge. I’d imagine he’d still have some rough edges to smooth out defensively, but he can really hit.It’s unusual for a team to have two legitimate catching prospects, so I doubt they’d spend significant money or resources on an external option.
I’d put my money on Knizner backing up Kelly at the start of 2021. I don’t think either one checks all the boxes by any means, but they might combine to do it. If the Cardinals would stop playing a man down by refusing to use the backup catcher unless absolutely necessary, the two could make for a really solid combo.Also, they’ve got so much time and energy invested in Kelly that I think he gets a little more time to prove he can play. They aren’t likely to get anything better from a journeyman catcher, and guys like Cervelli or Russell Martin don’t hit the market often, and when they do the price tag is heavily inflated.
When Yadi goes, the Cards may be forced to run that combo, Dennis. With a creative manager and someone that doesn’t train for 174 games taking up all the time, I could easily see some sort of mix-and-match situation going after Molina leaves. I believe they’ll have to do that because the odds of finding the next great catcher immediately are really slim.However, if Molina is going to play at this rate–and there’s no guarantee that if he doesn’t slow down 2020 is his last year, as Adam pointed out–I still think Kelly’s skills will be eroded by the lack of playing time. I’m wondering–and Colin would know better than I on this–if we might not see Andrew Knizner as the starter in 2021 or 2022 backed up by Dennis Ortega. I can’t believe Kelly will get 100 or less AB over the next two years and still be effective when he gets the full time spot.