Yadier Molina's presence has never been more urgent for the Cardinals

The injury to Willson Contreras has left Ivan Herrera as the St. Louis Cardinals' starting catcher, and the team needs Yadier Molina to help Herrera become a stronger defender.
Wild Card Series - Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals - Game Two / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

After a tumultuous 2023 mired in controversy, Willson Contreras had been everything the St. Louis Cardinals could have asked for in 2024. Not only was Contreras hitting .280 with a .950 OPS, but he had also drastically improved his defense from prior seasons. But on May 7, all that development screeched to a halt as he broke his left arm on a swing by the New York Mets' J.D. Martinez.

Contreras' absence has left the starting catcher position in the mitt of the 23-year-old Ivan Herrera. Herrera started the season well at the plate, hitting .304 in his first 26 plate appearances, but since that high point, he has hit just .196 in his subsequent 50 plate appearances.

More pressing is Herrera's defense, which leaves much to be desired. According to Baseball Savant, Herrera is two blocks below average, but more alarmingly, he has failed to throw out a single basestealer in nine attempts this season. This is where former Cardinals stalwart Yadier Molina could provide an immense benefit; unfortunately, he has not shown up in St. Louis this season.

Molina was hired in the offseason to be a special assistant to President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak, but his role is increasingly appearing to be more symbolic than substantial. Mozeliak said that Molina would help with player evaluation, but he was far less specific when it came to Molina's role with catchers in the organization, saying that he knew Molina would have more comfort working with young catchers but that Molina also wanted exposure to the front office side of the sport.

Regardless of the role Molina was assigned, he needs to catch the first plane to St. Louis to help Herrera develop behind the dish. Contreras is expected to be out for six to eight weeks, and the team's season is teetering on the precipice of disaster. Although the main focus on the Cardinals' struggles is the offense, the pitching could also wilt if Herrera is not able to provide sound defense and control the running game.

Herrera's backup while Contreras is out is Pedro Pages, who was a strong defender in the minor leagues, but his hitting may not be up to snuff to play nearly every day in the major leagues. With the team's offense in the gutter, it needs every bat it can get.

Molina's role may have been overstated by Mozeliak, or he may have been expected to contribute substantially to the team. No matter what Molina's ultimate job in the organization is, Contreras' injury should implore Molina to arrive in St. Louis and help mold Herrera into a more capable defender.