Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said yesterday that the 30-year-old Fryer has been a “pleasant surprise” for his team in 2016, but a DFA has looked increasingly likely as Pena has neared the completion of a minor league rehab assignment for a knee injury. While Fryer worked in a very highly limited role in support of Yadier Molina, he’s been quite solid at the plate, slashing .368/.415/.421 through 41 plate appearances this season. He’s also prevented four of the six stolen bases attempts against him.
Fryer doesn’t come with a lengthy track record at the big league level, but he’s authored a solid .270/.347/.354 batting line in 199 Major League plate appearances across parts of six seasons between the Pirates, Twins and Cardinals dating back to 2011. Based on his .237/.328/.328 line in 935 plate appearances in Triple-A, it’s fair to expect some regression in his overall big league production, but as a mostly solid pitch-framer with a 29 percent caught-stealing rate throughout his minor league career, Fryer is certainly an appealing depth option.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that the Cardinals will attempt to get him to Triple-A Memphis, though they’ll first need to pass Fryer through outright waivers. Fryer has been outrighted in the past (meaning he could elect free agency even if he does clear), but given the paucity of quality catching options around the league, it should never simply be assumed that a backstop in the midst of a productive season will go unclaimed.
As for Pena, he’ll be making his Cardinals debut when he suits up for the first time. St. Louis signed him to a two-year, $5MM contract this offseason, but he underwent surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee in early April and has yet to be healthy enough to take the big league field. The switch-hitting 34-year-old is a lifetime .260/.300/.352 hitter at the Major League level and has compiled a more impressive .271/.313/.354 line in 982 PAs over the past three seasons with the Tigers and the division-rival Reds.