Which Cardinals are at risk of losing their roster spots when injured players return?

As the Cardinals get more reinforcements off the injured list, it will impact who they decide to keep on their 26-man roster.
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages
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The St. Louis Cardinals have been navigating the injury bug as of late. While the club has been able to fight its way back to being around .500, internally, there is belief within themselves that as they get their major contributors back, the club can begin to go on another run and get themselves comfortably above .500 for the first time since 2022.

As things currently stand, the Cardinals are missing the following key contributors from their everyday roster due to injury:

C Willson Contreras
C Ivan Herrera
OF Lars Nootbaar
OF Tommy Edman
RP Riley O'Brien
SP Steven Matz

That's almost 25% of their best 26-man group that is currently on the injured list or working their way back on a rehab assignment, and in the cases of Contreras, Nootbaar, and Edman, they are legit everyday players that they can hardly replace when they are out. That's not even to mention not having OF Jordan Walker around either, who's currently with their Memphis affiliate working on his swing.

Luckily for the Cardinals, most of those names appear to be on their way back to St. Louis, sooner rather than later. I want to go in order player by player based on the expected timeframe they are supposed to return by and look at which players that are currently on the Cardinals' Major League roster are most at risk of being optioned once each player returns. Due to positional fit and role on the team, the return of certain players has a great impact on different players currently on their roster.

Jose Fermin and Nick Raposo are at risk of being optioned when Willson Contreras returns

Willson Contreras was one of the best hitters in all of baseball when he landed on the injured list in early May with a broken forearm.

Through his first 128 at-bats this season, Contreras slashed .280/.398/.551 with 6 HR while posting a 169 wRC+ and 1.7 WAR. Contreras had also made major strides behind the plate, ranking well above average in blocking, framing, and caught stealing. Contreras was easily the Cardinals' best player and will likely step back into that role soon after he returns to St. Louis.

While Contreras' recovery from injury has been nothing short of remarkable, I would still imagine that the Cardinals will be cautious at the beginning of his return when it comes to his catching duties. The club trusts Pedro Pages' ability behind the plate, and with the major need the Cardinals have for offensive production right now, I could see the Cardinals easing Contreras back into his catching duties while having him DH more often.

If they choose to do that, I actually think Fermin is the most likely candidate to be optioned as the Cardinals seem hesitant to run two catchers in their lineup without one off of the bench. It's kind of odd to me as St. Louis could easily trade in their DH if they had an injury or wanted to pinch hit for Pages late in a game, but they have not really shown the willingness to do that so far.

If they become open to that possibility or don't DH Contreras much, then Raposo becomes the easy candidate to lose his roster spot after being called up on Saturday morning to replace Herrera.