The Cardinals are going to place catcher Willson Contreras on the injured list, with manager Oli Marmol relaying the news to reporters, including Katie Woo of The Athletic. The issue is tendonitis in his left wrist, per Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat.
Contreras left yesterday’s game with discomfort in that wrist and didn’t play in today’s contest. It’s unclear how significant this wrist issue is, but it will end his season strictly based on timing since there’s just over a week left on the schedule.
After spending his entire career with the Cubs, Contreras reached free agency after last season. The Cards had a vacancy behind the plate for the first time in years after the retirement of Yadier Molina and eventually moved Contreras across the division by signing him to a five-year, $87.5MM deal with a club option for 2028.
The results of his first year in St. Louis were mixed, to say the least. He has long been considered a bat-first catcher and that continued this year. He hit 20 home runs and walked in 10.3% of his plate appearances, leading to a batting line of .264/.358/.467 and wRC+ of 128. But he was given a grade of -9 Defensive Runs Saved, the worst such mark of his career. Both FanGraphs and Statcast gave him negative grades for his framing, though Statcast did like his blocking and throwing.
Concerns about his defense were seemingly the issue as he was moved off his position in May, serving exclusively as the designated hitter for a time. The club’s president of baseball operations John Mozeliak described the issue as a “lack of confidence” from the pitching staff, but Contreras was put back behind the plate a week later.
That ended up being one strange blip in a disappointing season for the Cards, who are currently 67-86 and in last place in the National League Central, guaranteed to finish with a losing record for just the second time in this century. It’s hard to know how much of those results are part of the transition from Molina to Contreras, but pitching was clearly a problem area for the club. They have a collective 4.81 earned run average at the moment, which places them 25th in the league in that category.
Going forward, it’s possible that the Cards could look to trade a catcher this winter, with Contreras still under contract for four more years. They are looking to add three starting pitchers in the offseason and could do some of that via free agency, but trading from their position player mix will likely have to be a consideration as well. Iván Herrera has always hit well in the minors and that continued to be the case this year, as he slashed .297/.451/.500 in 83 Triple-A games. Andrew Knizner had a serviceable season as well, hitting .241/.284/.433 in his 64 major league games. His 94 wRC+ indicates he was a bit below average in a vacuum but that’s quite good by backup catcher standards.
Herrera doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors and will be out of options next year anyway, meaning he’ll need to hang onto an active roster spot. Knizner still has an option year remaining, which could allow the club to hang onto all three, but gauging league interest could be one path to finding the pitching upgrades they seek.