With Yadier Molina and Andrew Knizner on the St Louis Cardinals’ roster, an old reunion of former St. Louis catchers is happening with Carson Kelly in Arizona.
For years, Carson Kelly was viewed as the next in line behind the plate for the St Louis Cardinals. In Kelly’s case, it was never that he fell off as a prospect, it was just that Yadier Molina never yielded his spot.
Rather than let Kelly spoil in the minor leagues, the Cardinals traded the top catching prospect to Arizona for Paul Goldschmidt prior to the 2019 season. While Goldschmidt hasn’t been the hitter he was for the bulk of his career in Arizona, he’s been a stalwart in the middle of the lineup and defensively at first base in his time here.
With Yadier Molina still currently occupying, and thriving, out of the catcher’s spot for St. Louis, nobody can be mad that the Cardinals shipped off Kelly for a big improvement. Even while Kelly was still in the Cardinals’ system behind Molina, Andrew Knizner was making a name for himself as another option. His .313/.368/.430 slash line at AAA Memphis in 2018 was likely part of the reason the Cardinals were fine moving Kelly.
Molina, Knizner, and Kelly have all been the guys at the top of the organizational depth chart for the back half of the 2010s, and now the trio meet again as the Cardinals kick off a four-game series in the desert on Thursday night.
This time is slightly different because this is the first year that Knizner has been at the MLB level as the full-time backup to Molina, putting them all in the MLB at the same time. As expected, he has not played much, but he has been here learning from the Cardinal all the great.
This meeting is also different because of the years Kelly and Molina are having at the plate. Kelly, who just returned from a broken toe, is hitting .333/.482/.595 over 29 games this year at age 26. After hitting 18 homers in 2019, this year has been Kelly’s most rounded offensive year so far. His 2.0 bWAR greatly beats Molina’s 0.6 to this point.
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While Molina hasn’t provided as much total value as Kelly, he does hold a flame to Kelly’s performance at the plate. Molina’s .288/.323/.542 slash is almost unfathomable at age 38, but the future Hall of Famer just keeps on chugging along.
As the trio meets tonight, the other member of the Goldy trade, Andy Young, will also be facing off against his former team for the first time. In 32 at-bats this year, Young has smacked four homers filling in at second, third, and left field for the Diamondbacks.
The Cardinals couldn’t have gotten Goldy for cheap, and giving up only what they did was still viewed as a good trade, even now when Goldy has regressed and Kelly/Young have come into their own.
Kelly has only played four total games against the St Louis Cardinals in the three years since he was traded, getting one hit in 12 at-bats. As for Goldy, he’s hit three homers in six games against his former team since he left.
As we just saw with Lance Lynn and the Chicago White Sox though, playing against a former team can be a special motivator. With Kelly and Goldschmidt both in that situation at the heart of their respective lineups, it could be a fun series in the desert.