Thursday, July 10, 2014

How do Cardinals replace Yadier Molina?

Short answer:  You can't.

The Cardinals playoff chances took a big hit today as the team found out that starting catcher Yadier Molina would miss 8-12 weeks after suffering a ligament tear in his right thumb. That timetable puts him out until mid-to-late September, effectively ending his season, although he could be back in time for the playoffs (if the Cards make it).

This is the worst thing that could have happened to an already struggling team.  Not only are the Cardinals losing one of their better hitters, but they are also losing the leader on defense and a guy who acts like a manager on the field.

Molina has been invaluable in working with the Cardinals young pitchers and helping them develop, while his throwing ability as well as his ability to frame pitches saves the team several runs each year.

Backup Tony Cruz will take over for Molina in the short-term, while GM John Mozeliak has already acknowledged that he will scour the market for any available catchers, according to Jennifer Langosch.

But what catchers might be available?

Well, the Yankees have an abundance of catchers in their system and Brian McCann, who they signed to a 5-year deal prior to the season, blocking them all. 

According to David Lennon of Newsday, the Yankees could make Francisco Cervelli available.  He is a career .271/.342/.368 hitter, but has only thrown out 22% of base stealers in his career. 

ESPN's Jim Bowden (via Bernie Miklasz), also lists the following catchers as being available:

Kurt Suzuki, Twins.
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies.
Hector Sanchez, Giants.
John Buck, Mariners
A.J. Pierzynski, Red Sox
Ryan Hanigan, Rays.
Jose Molina, Rays

Buck and Pierzynski were recently designated for assignment and can probably be acquired for cheap.  Ruiz would only be available if Phillies GM Ruben Amaro finally admits defeat and starts selling.  Yadier's brother Jose is also well known for his defense (37% CS) and pitch framing, but is a career .235 hitter and is hitting only .187 this year.  Suzuki and Sanchez are pretty similar.  Sanchez has a career .257 average and has thrown out 26% of basestealer, while Sanchez has a .251 average and 26% CS).  Hanigan has thrown out base stealers at a career 39% rate, but his offense has dropped off considerably the last two years.

None of these guys are going to replace Yadier, but there are a few who could be upgrades over Tony Cruz and that's all Mozeliak will be looking for at this point.  What this really means is that other Cardinals need to step it up to help replace Molina's production.  If not, this season could be over in a hurry.

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