Future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina cannot be trusted at the plate by the Cardinals until further notice
St. Louis Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is in his last season before ending his Hall of Fame career. Although fans would love to have Molina around for a long time, his 2022 season has been one of the worst among all players in baseball at the plate, and almost all of his value is now found behind the dish.
To say Molina’s season at the plate has been a disaster may be an understatement. Molina ranks 322 out of 325 players with at least 200 PA this season with a wRC+ of 44. You can tell Molina is lost at the plate most games. The catcher missed six weeks over the summer with knee inflammation and was away from the team during that time, and recently missed a weekend series to watch his basketball team win a championship.
While all of this would cause any other catcher to lose his job, Molina is a legend in St. Louis, beloved in the clubhouse, and still holds great value as a guide for the pitching staff. His defensive value still makes him a playable player, but the Cardinals must consider ways to pinch hit for Molina in big spots of games.
With how bad of a hitter Molina has been this season, the club cannot have scenarios where they allow him to hit in key moments of games down the stretch this season, and especially come playoff time. It is borderline malpractice to leave a player that is statically that bad in big moments.
And yet, Molina has shown a bit of a spark as of late. Over the last 5 games, he slashed .278/.316/.389 with a huge 3-RBI double against the Chicago Cubs on September 3rd. This is exactly what fans have come to expect from their legendary catcher, and could be a sign of one last resurgence from Molina.
Five games is not enough of a sample size to rely on this though, and unless a larger sample size is complied. The Cardinals need to prepare for scenarios where they may need to pinch hit for their future Hall of Famer.
Here is how adding a third catcher can make a major difference for St. Louis in their quest for a World Series title.
Adding a third catcher allows the Cardinals to pinch hit for Yadier Molina in big spots
The Cardinals are well on their way to making the playoffs, and it is time for them to begin figuring out who their best 26-man roster will be. In the playoffs, rotations shorten to typical four guys, which will allow the Cardinals to add another position player to their roster or deepen their bullpen further. In the case of St. Louis, the latter should be considered.
If the Cardinals were to add Ivan Herrera to their postseason roster with Molina and Andrew Knizner, they would be able to start Molina in their playoff games and have the ability to play matchups later in games. No club can afford to be down to one catcher in event of an injury. Having a third catcher on the roster would be purely insurance for moments when Molina needs hit for.
Why is it so important St. Louis does this? Imagine if a left handed pitcher is in the game, bases loaded, down two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning, and Molina is at the plate. Unless Molina begins to show real signs of life for a prolonged stretch, Marmol has to turn to a guy like Pujols in that spot. Or if a righty is on the mound, a guy like Brendan Donovan.
Carrying that third catcher on the roster gives Marmol that flexibility in those big spots. Obviously, the hope is that they can let Molina play entire games and even be a contributor at the plate, but based on the sample size given this season, the club has to prepare for him to let them down at the plate.
Hopefully, Molina can buy into this kind of strategy. He has been open to a part that role this season with Knizner, but being pinch-hit for in the biggest moments of games is not something he would be excited about. Pujols has embraced this team-first kind of mentality this season, but he came into the year knowing that was his role. Molina will have to adjust down the stretch of a playoff push, which may prove difficult for the club.
Regardless, Marmol and John Mozeliak must start having these conversations and preparing Molina for this reality. If Molina continues to swing even just an average bat down the stretch, then this conversation could die. But until that larger sample size exists, this is what must happen, or the Cardinals could experience some major disappointments in the postseason.