Yahoo Sports MLB writers Zach Crizer and Hannah Keyser break down St. Louis’ choice to move their new 5-year, $87.5 million catcher to designated hitter just 30 games into the season. Hear the full conversation on “The Bandwagon” - Yahoo Sports’ new baseball podcast - and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.
ZACH CRIZER: The thing to remember is they signed him. They went out of their way to do a thing they don't usually do, which is sign free agents. They signed Willson Contreras for $87.5 million to be the new catcher. It was pretty drastic action to go from "he's the new catcher" to "he is not a catcher" in less than two months of baseball.
Communication issues with the pitchers or they don't think the catcher is game planning well enough for their pitchers-- those seem to be the issues. Although they haven't laid out specific instances, that seems to be the implication, that he's not game planning and game calling the way that the Cardinals' pitchers are comfortable with or used to. So they didn't apparently think it was worthwhile to just maybe mix in Willson Contreras less while he gets up to speed.
It's just a really strange overall messaging because this is not how you break in a catcher. The whole thing is that they don't like how he's working with the pitchers. So the solution is to have him not work with the pitchers? That's the idea?
HANNAH KEYSER: Right. Nobody expected the Cardinals pitching to be very good. A lot of this is being blamed on Willson Contreras, the catcher, but that the pitching is actually just as bad as, in some ways, it was expected to be, based on projections. The absence of Yadier Molina is a huge deal. That's why he got a whole retirement tour. That retirement tour notably came because he told them he would be retiring. And they had a lot of time to think about how they might want to replace him.
What I don't understand is if you are going from Yadier Molina to anyone else, whether that's Willson Contreras or Andrew Knizner, the Cardinals' previous backup catcher, who is now going to be catching the bulk of the games, the transition is something that is not the incoming catcher's responsibility because the standard has been set by someone who is not them, and the team wants to make that transition as smooth as possible.
So the team, whether that's manager Oli Marmol, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak, somewhere in between, they should have spent so much of 2022 thinking about how you were going to make that transition. And they should have spent even more of this past offseason thinking about how they were going to make that transition.
And that's what spring training is for-- to turn whatever it was that Willson Contreras sold them on, the potential he had to become a successor to Yadier Molina. They had all of spring training and even before spring training. Like, get him up to speed.
ZACH CRIZER: The solution was also to get the pitchers ready for this or--
HANNAH KEYSER: Yes.
ZACH CRIZER: --or what everyone thought they might do this offseason. Get some new pitchers who are actually good.
HANNAH KEYSER: Yes.
ZACH CRIZER: That would have helped.