Cardinals catching option No. 1: Willson Contreras
Willson Contreras agreed to a five-year, $87.5 million deal with the Cardinals this past offseason. The longtime Cub made headlines when he announced his excitement to join his former rivals. He revealed his appreciation for Yadier Molina, which was reciprocated by the Cardinal legend. Unfortunately, Contreras got off to a slow start. He slumped throughout the first two months of the season. Meanwhile, the pitching staff faltered across the board, leading some to speculate that Contreras could be to blame.
These reports along with internal analysis prompted the Cardinals to announce in early May that Contreras would be temporarily relieved of his duties as catcher. While the Cardinals never expected Contreras to occupy an everyday role the way Molina did, they certainly planned on him catching the majority of their games for at least the first three or four years of his contract. To abandon that plan just one month into his Cardinals career revealed serious internal doubt. Reports surfaced of a plan to move Contreras to the outfield.
After several weeks, Contreras reclaimed his role as the Cardinals' starting catcher and has performed well since then. Miles Mikolas, among others, has cited Contreras' brilliant game-calling while commending his clubhouse presence.
Unsurprisingly, Contreras' success has brought back uncertainty, with some suggesting that the Cardinals may trade him at the upcoming deadline. Bob Nightengale included Contreras' name recently in a story about players who have been made available ahead of the deadline.
Many have expressed skepticism that Contreras will be dealt due to his large contract. In the likely event that he does remain in St. Louis, Contreras no longer profiles as a true everyday catcher. He is much more likely to enter some sort of timeshare for the 2024 season with one of Andrew Knizner or Iván Herrera. When not catching, the Cardinals can still use Contreras at DH or in the outfield.