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Profiling The Cardinals Catching Options

by Jason McGrew
At the conclusion of the 2022 season,  Yadier Molina concluded his Hall of Fame career.  This means that for the first time in two decades, the Cardinals are in need of a new starting catcher.
Their options come from 3 areas.  Free agents, trades and within the organization.
First, let’s look at two free agents.
Willson Contreras
Age at 2023 opening day: 30
Career slash: .256/.349/.459.  OPS+ 115
2022 slash: .243/.349/.466. OPS+ 128
Career DRS: +11.   Caught stealing 30%
2022 DRS: -1.  Caught stealing 31%
2022 catch framing: 0 runs saved. Rank 29 of 60 in MLB
Analysis: Contreras is a very productive hitter.  The perception that he’s not good defensively might be a bit exaggerated.  This could be an impact signing for the Cardinals
Christian Vazquez
Age at 2023 opening day: 32
Career slash: .261/.310/.386. OPS+ 85
2022 slash: .274/.315/.399. OPS+ 99
Career DRS: 51.  Caught stealing 34%
2022 DRS: 11.  Caught stealing 27%
2022 Catch framing: 1 run saved. Rank 26 of 60 in MLB
Analysis: Vazquez is a solid defensive catcher. Offensively, he won’t hurt you but he certainly doesn’t really move the needle forward.  If they sign him, it would be as a safe and cheaper option. Signing him would signify to me that they believe in Ivan Herrera and they just need a capable player until he’s ready.
Secondly, the trade candidates
Sean Murphy
Age at 2023 opening day: 28
Career slash: .236/.326/.429. OPS+ 114
2022 slash: .250/.332/.426. OPS+ 120
Career DRS: 12. Caught stealing: 28%
2022 DRS: 1. Caught stealing: 31%
Catch framing: 8 runs saved.  Rank 6 of 60 in MLB
Analysis: the 2021 AL gold glove catcher has 3 years of team control remaining.  He’s just now arbitration eligible.  Trading for Murphy would be an impact move.  He’s good behind the plate and he’s a capable hitter.
Danny Jansen
Age at 2023 opening day: 27
Career slash: .223/.307/.423. OPS+ 98
2022 slash: .260/.339/.516. OPS+ 141
Career DRS: 10.  Caught stealing: 25%
2022 DRS: 5.  Caught stealing: 27%
Catch framing: -1 Runs saved. Rank 38 of 60
Analysis: Jansen comes with 2 years of team control.  He’s a decent defensive catcher coming off of a career best offensive season. If his 2022 offense is indicative of what he will be, this would be an impact move.  If he goes back to his career average,  he would be a league average guy.
Finally, the in house option.  I’m not profiling Ivan Herrera because there isn’t a big enough major league sample size.
Andrew Knizner
Age at 2023 opening day: 28
Career Slash: .204/.292/.288. OPS+ 65
2022 slash: .215/.301/.300. OPS+ 75
Career DRS: -13.  Caught stealing: 30%
2022 DRS: -7.  Caught stealing: 25%
Catch framing: -6 runs saved.  Rank 54 of 60
Analysis: any of the 4 candidates profiled would represent a significant upgrade over Andrew Knizner.  Knizner profiles unfavorably both at the plate and behind it.
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