Why the St. Louis Cardinals' backup catcher situation matters a ton this season
By Josh Jacobs
The backup catcher will have a big impact on the club this year with so much transition behind the plate
The biggest acquisition of the offseason for the St. Louis Cardinals was signing former Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras to a five-year deal, giving the Cardinals a big bat to replace the franchise icon, Yadier Molina.
Going into Spring Training, it was practically a lock that Andrew Knizner would be the backup catcher once again this year, or at least to start the year. With the Cardinals' already having to adjust to Contreras behind the plate as the primary catcher, it would be helpful for the pitching staff to have a familiar voice backing up Contreras. The Cardinals did have prospect Ivan Herrera and minor-league signing Tres Barrera in camp as competition though, and it's been hotter than anyone could have anticipated.
Although it was clear that Barrera was the better catcher during camp, Knizner has been named to the Cardinals' Opening Day roster, probably in large part due to the lack of a 40-man roster spot for Barrera at the moment.
It's already been reported that Barrera has gained a lot of respect from the Cardinals' coaching and pitching staffs, so pairing that with Knizner's struggles does not bode well for his future with this team.
This competition may feel minor to most fans, but it's really a pivotal decision for the Cardinals' coaching staff to make.
The Cardinals' backup catcher will carry a lot of responsibility
Contreras signed on to catch a lot of games for St. Louis, with the club hoping he can start behind the plate around 120 times this season. That would be 50 more games than he started at catcher this year, but he did hit the 116-game mark back in 2021.
Say Contreras does hit the 120 mark in games played behind the plate, but that still leaves 25% of the Cardinals' games to be started by a different catcher. One out of every four games will make a big impact on this club, both in the lineup and on the pitching staff. The Cardinals need to be able to trust their backup catcher to guide their staff and produce something at the plate when their number is called.
It's not a flashy competition, but it does matter for this club's success this year. Keep an eye on Kninzer's performance early in the season, as the club may be forced to turn to another option.