Once Carson Kelly was traded and it was clear that Andrew Knizner wasn't fit to be an everyday starter, the organization set its sights on Ivan Herrera, a bat-first catcher who has shown great success in the minors.
The 23-year-old catcher has always played well offensively, but his defense has shown signs of improvement these past few years, especially after seeing some time in the majors last year under Yadier Molina's tutelage. Currently in Memphis, Herrera is slashing .291/.425/.535 for an OPS of .960. These numbers are absurd for someone who is three years younger on average than his competition. Furthermore, Herrera has boosted his exit velocity numbers and walk rate handily from 2022 while maintaining a strong K rate. Sadly, the front office doesn't seem too apt to call him up since they just paid their current starter $87.5 million over five years.
These numbers, along with Herrera's age, make him very appealing to contenders and teams on the up-and-up. He is not arbitration eligible until 2026, so he has lots of team control left. Why would the Cardinals choose to trade him given all of these positives? Well, they almost have to trade him at this point if they don't plan on making him at least a partial MLB catcher next year. He's shown he can play in AAA and that he deserves every chance to prove himself in the majors. However, Andrew Knizner has displayed a sense of comfort with the starting staff. The starters already struggled to adjust to Contreras; does management want to replay that scenario again next year with Ivan Herrera?
If John Mozeliak wants to capitalize on a prospect's value while he has a starter and a backup in the majors, now is the time to trade Herrera. While he may not be a top-10 catcher currently on MLB.com's list, he does have stats that measure up to those who are on that list. He's probably a top-5 catching prospect in the minors currently.
The most obvious fit is Miami, and Josh Jacobs discussed possible Ivan Herrera deals with Miami recently. They have ample starting pitching and they need a catcher for those starters. Herrera could be traded to the Marlins and immediately split time with Nick Fortes or Jacob Stallings. Tampa Bay could also use a catcher, even though their roster is already stacked with strong bats.