St. Louis Cardinals minor league catcher Ivan Herrera is a prime trade candidate whom the Cardinals should move immediately.
Ivan Herrera feels as though he's been a prospect for eons. The St. Louis Cardinals signed the catcher as an international free agent in 2016 and touted him as the heir to Yadier Molina after the team traded former "catcher of the future" Carson Kelly to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2018 Paul Goldschmidt trade.
Now, with Willson Contreras entrenched as the Cardinals' starting catcher for the foreseeable future, the 23-year-old Herrera could be a tantalizing option for a team in need of a catcher. Herrera has been having a breakout year in Triple-A Memphis, hitting .295 on the season with a higher walk rate and more line drives. In his past 10 games, Herrera has been on fire, with an average of .436.
The Cardinals have seemed reluctant to give Herrera an extended look in the major leagues. Some of it is understandable given his youth and the development the Cardinals seem to believe he needs; the signing of Contreras made it clear that the team did not believe Herrera was ready for a full-time job. But with only 22 plate appearances with the Cardinals in his career, he might need to take the same route that Kelly did and wear a new uniform to receive an extended chance.
The team has a few other catchers available who could back up Contreras next season if the Cardinals decide to part with Herrera. Andrew Knizner, the current backup, is having his best season at the plate, hitting .231, and has seemingly developed into a passable backup catcher. Pedro Pages is another possibility, although he was demoted from Memphis to Double-A Springfield last season.
Contreras is signed through 2027 and has a club option for 2028. The back end of that contract will likely see him catching less and serving as the designated hitter more often given that he'll be in his mid-30s, but if he can reliably catch through 2025 or so, the Cardinals have some time to develop a higher-upside catcher, such as Leonardo Bernal, currently hitting .268 in Single-A Palm Beach, who might be ready to play in the major leagues by 2026.
With Herrera currently slaughtering Triple-A pitching, the Cardinals ought to deal him at this higher point in his value. One team that desperately needs a catcher happens to be the pitching-rich Cleveland Guardians.
Guardians ace Shane Bieber has had his name thrown around in rumors regarding pitchers the Cardinals might be interested in acquiring, and if the Cardinals want to pull the trigger, dealing Herrera as a part of that trade seems logical. The Guardians' current catchers comprise Mike Zunino, who is hitting .194 without his usual power, and Cam Gallagher, hitting a miserable .131.
With catching depth in the minor leagues and a stalwart behind the plate in the person of Contreras, the Cardinals can afford to dangle Herrera in trade talks. By pairing him with a Major League asset such as Tommy Edman or Brendan Donovan, they might finally receive the starter with strikeout stuff whom they desperately need.