The latest rumors on the catching market are interesting for the Cardinals
With the retirement of Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals have made finding their new starting catcher their number one priority this off-season. The last time the Cardinals had to fill this big of shoes was after Albert Pujols left in free agency in 2011. Although Molina was nowhere near his prime like Pujols was, the legacy he leaves behind will be a heavy burden to carry.
St. Louis has been rumored and linked to a number of catchers over the the last few weeks, and the hot stove is only beginning to heat up. Per John Mozeliak’s comments though, the organization is keen on addressing catcher as quickly as possible, so I will not be surprised if the club’s answer at that position comes sooner rather than later. I went ahead and gathered what the industry has been saying about the Cardinals targets at catcher for a current update on where St. Louis lands in their pursuit of a backstop.
Front-runners for Willson Contreras
On November 17th, Jon Heyman once again linked St. Louis to the former Cubs catcher, having this to say in his story on the New York Post.
"The Cardinals are pursuing free-agent catcher Willson Contreras and look like a potential landing spot for the former Cub. While the Astros and other are linked to Contreras, St. Louis is among teams at the forefront of talks. This would be a double blow to the Cubs, as St. Louis is their biggest rival. Oddly enough, the Cubs never made Contreras a multiyear offer covering free-agent years. The Astros are interesting, as former GM James Click had a deal for Contreras in place that was nixed by owner Jim Crane. So with Crane running things for now, he seems like an unusual fit. The Cardinals are more logical, having lost future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina to retirement."
Rumors of Contreras being a target for St. Louis began a few months ago, as more and more comments were made from Contreras’ own camp and the industry about his interest in the Cardinals. While many have turned their attention to the trade market for the Cardinals big splash at catcher, there still appears to be a lot of smoke for Contreras to be the heir to Molina’s throne.
What will be most interesting to watch here is who else continues to be linked to the 30-year old catcher in the coming days and weeks. Contreras was once thought to get a 4-5 year deal with an AAV of $20 million+, but with many teams looking toward the trade market for their guy, his price will likely come down to the $15-$18 million AAV range. Even with lower than expected payroll projections for St. Louis, the Cardinals would be strong players with this price range.