At the time, the Cardinals' handling of Willson Contreras, which included removing him from primary catching duties and wavering back and forth about whether he would be a primary DH and outfielder, just a DH, or ever have the opportunity to catch for the team again in 2023. While I do not think that saga is completely over, it's clear that Contreras' bat has proven both the Cardinals and any others who have doubted him wrong as the season has unfolded.
Through 120 games this year, Contreras has slashed .261/.353/.461 with 19 HR and 66 RBI while posting a 125 wRC+ and 2.2 WAR. He has easily been one of, if not the, best offensive catcher in baseball, and he has helped the Cardinals' lineup raise its floor and ceiling from a run production standpoint. Sure, the offense has had its flat moments this year, but outside of the Atlanta Braves, there may not be a better lineup in baseball in 2024. Contreras is a huge reason why.
Contreras took a while to get comfortable in St. Louis. He was eager to fill the void left by Yadier Molina and wanted to be the player the Cardinals could rely on behind the plate for years to come. Maybe that pressure contributed to his slow start, but it's also really common for stars to struggle when they first come into new situations. I'm confident that Contreras' bat will be an incredible asset to the lineup next year now that he feels at home in St. Louis.
Also important to note, this production has come with 92 games at catcher and 30 at DH as of 9/11, which just goes to show that he's a guy who can handle the grind of being an everyday catcher in this league. If it wasn't for that weird removal in May, he'd finish well above 100 starts at catcher on the year.
The Cardinals' pitching talent just isn't good enough this year, so it's never been fair to place the majority of the blame on Contreras like it appeared the organization was doing back in May. But it's also true that the Cardinals and Contreras are going to have to figure things out this offseason about his role as a catcher defensively going forward. His bat is elite for the catcher position, but it's still valuable at DH as well. Splitting time with Andrew Knizner or Ivan Herrera will surely happen, the question is just how much that will happen.
With how disappointing this season has been, it's a huge development to see Contreras mashing like he has been. Although it had only been half a season, giving up on Contreras as a catcher, and him struggling at the plate as well, was making his contract look like it could be a massive mistake. If Contreras can continue his play since July next year, no one will have questions about the deal he's received.