While the 40-man roster is currently full, there will be at the very least one more change sometime between now and March. The Cardinals have stated that Carson Kelly will continue to see everyday work in Memphis which opens up a spot on the Opening Day roster for what should resemble the back-up catcher. 2016 ended as most campaigns do for the St. Louis catching carousel and honestly, does anyone think next season will be any different?
It will take plenty of time to figure out just how long Yadier Molina plans on holding down the fort behind home plate, and I am not going to be the one who pushes him towards the dugout. Molina has more than earned another contract in my opinion, but those discussions will surely come up in Spring Training between the front office and agent. There are two schools of thought on how best to fill the 25th roster spot for the Cardinals, but it will be a short-term fix no matter what. Could Kelly handle starting once a week and soaking up as much knowledge as possible? The obvious answer is sure – he kind of did that in September, right.
Instead it makes all the sense in the world to have the Memphis staff get even more familiar with Kelly, who has progressed faster than expected and will see many of those young hurlers before too long under the Arch. That means there will be either a reunion with a former Cardinal (see Fryer, Eric) or door #2 which is how I hope Mo fills the spot. Molina can serve as the back-up to Matt Carpenter at first base or just take some pressure off his knees while keeping the second catcher more involved. There will be plenty of opportunities to keep that .300 bat in the lineup plus provide a clearer picture of how Kelly fits in starting in 2018.
Molina and his agent surely have discussed how he wants to finish his career and can look at how Albert Pujols endures yet another rehab in hopes of extending his playing days. In order to catch the Cubs, St. Louis must upgrade the entire roster and that starts with the spot most fans would prefer not to see playing. That philosophy has worked for the last couple of decades but must be revamped when you look at the most recent World Series. Chicago utilized three catchers while Cleveland relied on a little known back-up all throughout October.
Giving Molina more starts at first base or DH on AL road trips also opens up more playing time for a catcher who normally wouldn’t think about signing with the Cardinals. It will definitely not be a timeshare situation but with plenty of quality catching options on the market, that is something to watch over the next month. Enjoy the holidays everyone as St. Louis finished their shopping early but that doesn’t mean a last-minute deal may show up under the tree.