The Cardinals are planning to place catcher Yadier Molina on the injured list tomorrow, reports Katie Woo of The Athletic. Molina has been battling knee soreness this year and will be sidelined for “at least a few weeks.” Catching prospect Ivan Herrera will be recalled to take his place on the active roster.
Molina, 39, is a career-long Cardinal, having been drafted by the team in the year 2000. In August of last year, he and the team agreed to a one-year, $10MM extension, with Molina announcing the next day that 2022 would be his final season. It hasn’t exactly been the dream season that he and the club likely hoped for, as he has slumped to a .213/.225/.294 batting line on the campaign so far. That amounts to a wRC+ of just 47, though it seems quite likely that the knee issues are having an impact on that, as Woo reports that he’s been dealing with this soreness all year.
According to the report, Molina received multiple cortisone shots last weekend to try and quell the soreness. While the club wanted a 48-hour grace period to let the shots take effect, Molina evidently lobbied his way out of the confines of that timetable. He then caught games on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, though apparently the issue hasn’t abated enough for him to continue playing.
With Molina on the shelf, the Cardinals will now turn to a couple of other options for catching duties, both of which come with unknowns. Andrew Knizner has formed the other part of the club’s catching tandem this year, though hasn’t impressed much, producing a .198/.283/.257 line, 63 wRC+. Woo spoke to Cardinals manager Oli Marmol about Knizner’s disappointing results so far, despite getting more playing time with Molina’s knee issues. “When you’re backing up Yadi in the previous years, that’s tough,” Marmol said. “Now that (Knizner) is actually in there three times a week, four times a week, the expectations are no longer ‘trying to find my timing.’ You’re getting a real opportunity, so the expectations are different. He knows that. Now, he’s just got to get going.”
Joining Knizner on the roster will be Herrera, who is considered by many to be one of the top 100 prospects in baseball by FanGraphs, Keith Law of The Athletic and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN. He was briefly called up to the big leagues earlier this year when Molina went on the bereavement list, but got into just one game and didn’t make a plate appearance. Apart from that, he’s spent the year in Triple-A, putting up an impressive .291/.388/.436 line for a 125 wRC+. He’ll now get a proper chance to see if he can carry his skills over to the majors, though it’s quite common for prospects to struggle in their first tastes of major league action, even the highly-regarded ones.
This situation now presents a big unknown for the Cardinals that will need to be resolved in the coming weeks. The club is currently atop the NL Central division standings with a 37-28 record, though it’s far from a secure perch. They are just a game and a half ahead of a Brewers team that is one game behind the Giants for the final Wild Card spot, coming into tonight. With the trade deadline now just six weeks away, the Cards will have to decide if their in-house options are sufficient enough to carry them through the final few months of the season. Of course, much of that will depend on how Molina’s knees recover and how Knizner and Herrera fare over the next stretch of play, though if none of that trio seem capable of taking the job, it’s possible the Cards will have to look for outside help.