Ivan Herrera remains a part of the Cardinals' future
When St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak began the off-season insistent on the club acquiring a new starting catcher, many began to write off the future of Ivan Herrera with this organization. For the past few years, Herrera was seen as the heir apparent to Yadier Molina, but clearly, the club did not view him as their catcher for 2023.
Not only is he not the projected starting catcher next season, but with Willson Contreras coming in on a 5-year contract, the club is hoping that he can be their guy through the 2027 season. Although Contreras has a good bat, you do not hand him a 5-year deal without at least the hope that he can remain behind the plate for the duration of the deal.
So, where exactly does Herrera's role with the club come in? Although 2023 may not be much different than 2022 for Herrera's spot on the Major League roster, the Cardinals would be wise to continue to invest in him for the foreseeable future.
With age, Contreras will likely split more of his reps at catcher
Sure, the ideal scenario is that Contreras can be the club's primary catcher, being behind the plate 120+ games a year. If that happens, no one will be complaining that the Cardinals' held onto insurance options. But should Contreras need to take a step back from catching that often, and fall more in line with many teams around the league by catching closer to 100 games, the Cardinals will need a quality backup option.
Knizner entered his first year of arbitration this off-season, and the club may be motivated to move on from him as he approaches free agency. Knizner has been a fine backup option, but the club would certainly like to upgrade if they can. Herrera provides the clearest way to do so without looking outside the organization once again.
Catchers are notorious for developing slower than other positions. Not only does Herrera have to keep his bat up to par with the level he is playing at, but he must manage playing the most difficult position on the field and navigate new pitching staffs each season. I'm not saying Herrera will break out into a star here soon, but to write him off after one brief stint in St. Louis would be a mistake.