The St. Louis Cardinals have been rumored to have floated their young catcher in rumored deals and have also been rumored to have kicked the tires of a former backup catcher.
The St. Louis Cardinals, despite how it appeared to fans, were apparently very busy during the Winter Meetings. We have now learned that GM Mozeliak spoke with many, many teams and kicked many, many tires. We also know Mo is perfectly tight-lipped as is evidenced by the Dexter Fowler deal that was completed on Wednesday but announced on Friday.
Enter then the discussions (some would say rumors) that the St. Louis Cardinals have been asked for and about Carson Kelly in potential deals. While this doesn’t necessarily surprise me- Kelly is a young up-and-comer in the organization- I worried initially since Yadier Molina definitely needs a backup catcher.
Serving as the backup catcher might not be the best option for Kelly’s advancement and athletic progression. This in mind, shopping Kelly might make sense. Sending Kelly to another team where he could be used immediately might make good sense if the return to the Cardinals is good enough. Right?
Okay then, let’s assume that sending Kelly away is the best option (we will look at this shortly), then what? Who should the St. Louis Cardinals use to serve as backup to Yadi?
Eric Fryer played for the Cardinals- if only briefly- in 2016 and I, for one, was very disappointed in the decision to release him in the midst of the campaign. I liked Fryer and found him to be a great backup who provided decent defensive threat from behind the plate and certainly was no push-over at the plate.
Let’s take a look at these two and see if a Kelly departure and a Fryer reunion would make sense. First up, let’s examine the offensive production of each. A note: we will not necessarily be comparing apples to apples here since Kelly has such limited MLB experience. In that regard, we will be comparing Kelly’s minor league stats to Fryer’s major league stats so take the comparison with a grain of salt.
First up, Kelly’s offensive numbers:
|162 Game Avg.||162||211||16||32||16||0||0||16||0||0||0||32||.154||.214||.231||.445|
Next up, Fryer’s offensive numbers:
|162 Game Avg.||162||332||51||84||14||1||3||31||3||5||39||80||.254||.332||.328||.660|
If we pull the 2016 data off both charts, then we are comparing Kelly’s slash line of .289/.343/.395 (AAA) to Fryer’s slash line of .267/.336/.319 (MLB). In this regard, Kelly presents better. At this point, I would beg that Mozeliak NOT shop Kelly even though I am a huge Fryer fan.
Let’s look at defense and see if these sentiments from me hold true. First up, Kelly’s defensive numbers:
|Minors (2 seasons)||Minors||3B||144||142||1244.2||319||89||203||27||.915||2.11||2.03|
|Minors (3 seasons)||Minors||C||275||169||2387.0||2304||2092||197||15||.993||8.63||8.32||25||135||64||32%|
|All Levels (2 Seasons)||3B||144||142||1244.2||319||89||203||27||.915||2.11||2.03|
|All Levels (3 Seasons)||C||285||171||2423.0||2336||2122||199||15||.994||8.62||8.14||25||135||64||32%|
And here’s a look at Fryer’s defensive numbers:
Okay, I see now that Kelly is a better catcher too. In his career, Kelly owns a thirty-two percent caught-stealing rate where Fryer owns only a twenty-one percent. What about Yadi, you ask? Molina owns a forty-two percent caught-stealing rate. If we go off this stat alone, then Kelly is the keeper.
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Speaking of Molina, 2017 is his final year on his current contract with 2018 being a team option worth $15M and a $2M buyout. This means that the St. Louis Cardinals are seeking a backup for 2017 and either a backup beyond or for someone to assume the duties should Molina (God forbid) go elsewhere.
In this regard, which of the two- Kelly or Fryer- will serve as the better backup? The data seems to suggest that Kelly is indeed the rising catcher of tomorrow but is a backup role the best option for him? Is Fryer a better option to backup Yadi?
Here’s what I would LOVE to see happen: I would love to see Mozeliak sign Fryer to serve as backup and allow Kelly to play every day in Memphis for the first half of the season at least. It isn’t like we haven’t cut Fryer mid-season once before…
If Mozeliak doesn’t sign Fryer, I don’t think we are out anything. I see the value, equally, of having Kelly serve the year under Molina’s wing directly. I believe in Mozeliak and know that he will do the right thing for Kelly and that is what should matter for the future of the Cardinals.