Every St. Louis Cardinals fan knows that when Yadier Molina is healthy, he is going to be starting. The team finally sent down Knizner, accepting that.
The transition from a Hall of Famer to new blood doesn’t always go smoothly in the MLB. Right now, that is what is happening with the St. Louis Cardinals. I don’t say this to bash likely HOF’er Yadier Molina, even with the cracks in his armor we are seeing this year, he’s still been a nearly average batter at the plate.
What I mean to say is that now, for the second time in the past three years, Molina is blocking the rise of an MLB-ready catcher. Really since his debut in 2016, Carson Kelly was never given playing time behind Molina. That led to his eventual trade to the Diamondbacks before his age-24 season in the Paul Goldschmidt deal.
Kelly is doing just fine with Arizona and in this case, that is exactly what the Cardinals should’ve done with their excess of talent. Trade from a surplus to plug holes elsewhere.
This time around, the Cardinals are dealing with the same situation with Andrew Knizner and we have touched on this dilemma before. This time is different though. When the Cards traded Kelly, he was still on the young side of 25. Kelly had played parts of three seasons at AAA and clearly had nothing left to prove.
This time around, Knizner has played parts of two seasons at AAA and 2020 would’ve been his third. The big difference is that Knizner is already more than halfway to 26 years old. Last year, Knizner played in 18 games. This year, even when Yadier Molina was on the IL, Knizner has drawn just four starts out of his eight total appearances.
It’s not like Knizner has looked overmatched either. His 41 wRC+ doesn’t look great, but in the last two weeks, he’s batting .667! Cut that time frame down to just the last seven days, and he is still batting .667! The joke here is that in the last 14 days, Knizner has gotten just three at-bats (two hits) over two games without drawing a start.
The main point many people have made is that if the Cardinals aren’t going to trade Knizner, they need to at least give him playing time. To this point, it hasn’t happened. Not that we expected anything else.
Unless I have missed anything, neither John Mozeliak nor Mike Shildt have addressed the lack of playing time for Knizner. Now, before Friday’s game against the Cubs, the Cardinals finally accepted the reality of the situation and sent Knizner down to the Alternate Training Site.
It’ll be good to get Wieters back, but the frustration surrounding Knizner’s situation just keeps building.
Developmentally, playing at the alternate site makes more sense than rotting on the bench at the MLB level. Still though, playing time with the big club would be the best for him in the long run.
Yadi’s stranglehold on the catcher position looks weaker than it has in years past, but I don’t honestly know if the Cardinals have the strength to tell Yadi no. In the end, it’s just Knizner that is getting screwed. He is not getting playing time which screws him down the line, and now that he’s back in proverbial AAA, he doesn’t get that juicy MLB paycheck.
If there is one big thing that the 2020 season has driven home, it’s that if Yadi is anywhere near healthy, there’s no reason to have any other player that needs development on the MLB roster behind him. It has just been proven too many times over that he’s going to draw almost every start, for better or worse.
Kiz is still remaining on the taxi squad meaning he will still be with the team. This also means he won’t get any regular playing time in Springfield until the Cardinals return home early next week.
I guess it’s good to see the Cards accepting reality, but I wish they would just have the decency to either sit Yadi a couple of times a week or at least trade Knizner. There’s no reason to stop beating the “trade Kiz” drum until Yadi is no longer a St. Louis Cardinal.