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Saturday, May 06, 2023

Cardinals’ Willson Contreras shifting to DH, outfielder: What it means for his playing time - The Athletic

This is crazy. The team already has a thousand outfielders and has sometimes struggled to fit Nolan Gorman into the lineup. The last thing they need is to force another square peg into their lineup. Whoever was the decision-maker for the Contreras signing needs to be relieved of that responsibility.

When the Cardinals signed Contreras this offseason, they did so under the pretense that he would be their primary catcher. However, with the Cardinals reeling and the pitching staff struggling, manager Oli Marmol and the front office came to the conclusion that the rotation could benefit from some familiarity. Knizner will now catch the bulk of the starts, with Barrera serving as the reserve catcher.

jimfurtado Posted: May 06, 2023 at 05:04 PM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cardinals, pay site, willson contreras

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   1. bjhanke Posted: May 06, 2023 at 07:27 PM (#6127149)
This is from the Bizarro World. The Cardinals already have a giant logjam (7 candidates for 4 jobs) at OF/DH, and, except for Tyler O'Neill, all of the logjam is made by kids age 26 or younger. A veteran shoved into a starting OF spot is the last thing they need. Also, they are already overweight with righty power hitters, of which Contreras is one. Basically, if Contreras can't play catcher for the Cardinals, he needs to be traded. Or benched. I agree with the header here that whoever decided to acquire Contreras needs to go away, too.

This also probably spells the end of Tyler O'Neill. O'Neill, at 28, is the Cards' oldest OF/DH. At 28, he is also the only one who has reached his prime. He's had exactly one good season in his MLB career. He's a righty power hitter. My take on his being used as the starting CF in April was that he was one guy who the Cards needed to figure out first. If he didn't play well, or if he got hurt (AGAIN!), that was it. It was fish or cut bait for Tyler. Well, O'Neill wasn't playing well. He's now on the IL again. He's done here. Package him up with Contreras and go get an actual starting catcher. The Cubs must be laughing their asses off.

Play the kids in the OF. Give them some time to develop and show what they've got. Dylan Carlson is only 24, has 4 years of MLB experience, and is the only real defensive CF on the team. For crying out loud, don't trade him. Make him the every day CF. It's O'Neill and Contreras who have to go, if Contreras can't play catcher here.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: May 06, 2023 at 08:49 PM (#6127157)
We'll see how it works out but the Cards are one of the few teams that still believe in a "regular" C. Originally I assumed that was just the Yadi thing. But shifting Contreras and making some sort of big deal that Knizner is the regular to provide stability is pretty old school.

Anyway, Contreras has never really been that guy. He did make 123 starts back in 2018 and 112 in 2021 but he's also made pretty regular (but short) trips to the IL. He never should have been counted on for more than about 90 starts at C -- and his defensive limitations (framing mainly) are well known so you probably always wanted him for 90 starts at C and 30-40 at DH and he's not embarrassing in the OF or 1B from what I saw (not a lot).

But yes, at this point, somebody with responsibility on the Cards needs to go. I would think that would be Marmol with the clear instruction to his replacemet that "of course Contreras gets at least half the starts at C, that's why we signed him." But if that was the case, I assume we would not be seeing this story. Somebody seems to be doing their darnedest to make sure nobody looks at the man behind the curtain, I'm just not sure which one it is.

Put me in with #1 that Contreras needs to be shifted, I don't know how much money the Cards will have to eat. Five years always seemed rosy but something like 4/$72-76 didn't seem crazy so 5/$85 is not much different. Still, the Cards were top bidders the first time plus they're over a barrel, so anybody trading for Contreras will want a sizable bit of cash and won't give much in return. Or the Cards just suck it up and hold onto him as a 1.5-WAR player.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: May 06, 2023 at 08:57 PM (#6127159)
Knizner has a 27 OPS+ this season, slightly reducing his career MLB OPS+ to 62 in parts of five seasons.

the excuse has been made here that "well, of course he hasn't hit - that's because Yadier was an iron man, so Knizner couldn't get regular work."

now, he did have a career-best 74 OPS+ last year in a career-high 293 PA.
but the year before, he got 185 PA and he rolled out a 46 OPS+ turd.

588 MLB PA, age 28, 7th-round pick - sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

and sometimes guys who don't hit never will hit.


meanwhile, phenom Jordan Walker is hitting .185 in 27 AB in AAA with 1 RBI, so he's clearly thrilled by his weird demotion.

it's amazing to see such a well-run organization flail after what apparently was a franchise-wide frontal lobotomy.
   4. My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo Posted: May 06, 2023 at 10:36 PM (#6127172)
If O’Neill is the odd man out, I’d love to see Cleveland take a shot on him. They still have no outfielders that can hit worth a damn (Kwan is okay, Oscar Gonzalez just got sent back to the minors). Maybe a Plesac-O’Neill challenge trade?
   5. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 06, 2023 at 10:58 PM (#6127175)
I was absolutely astonished when the Cards signed Contreras. A franchise that places so much importance on catcher defense goes out and signs a catcher known to be a little subpar (at best) behind the plate.
   6. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 06, 2023 at 11:26 PM (#6127178)
Seems like the manager & Prez of Baseball Ops may be looking for a scapegoat other than themselves. O-1 in the post-Contreras catching era, although to be fair the Cardinals were up against the Tigers juggernaut.
   7. The Duke Posted: May 06, 2023 at 11:57 PM (#6127180)
This is scapegoating. Pure and simple. The pitching is awful up and down the line and instead of accepting that Yadi really was Yoda when it comes to game planning, they've laid this mess at Contreras' feet

All of this is tied to the internal power struggle between middle managers who teach (and believe in ) the Cardinal Way (pitch to contact, superb defense, good team speed/ base running, situational hitting and set roles/lineups) and Mo who made a decision to revamp the team to Tampa Midwest where the front office makes all the calls, players are all platooned and pitchers strike people out and exit velocity is king. This is why Shildt was fired (philosophical differences).

Marmol is just a mouthpiece. It may explain why Mike Maddux left abruptly (saying he was done coaching and then signed on with Texas two weeks later )and new bench coach Matt Holliday walked away when he realized what the new edicts were. Skip schumaker left as well but who wouldn't for a managerial job.

Today was a good example. Wainwright is average to borderline bad now. To be good he needs great defense because striking out people is not his thing. He got five runs but the defense cost him at least two and the complete lack of situational hitting cost us runs today

Unspoken here is that Oneill is on the outs with the team and Edman has been basically benched. These are both gold glovers and our two fastest players and best base stealers

Oh, and lest I forget, Knizner is putrid as an offensive player. It's basically like adding a good hitting pitcher to the lineup. So how bad would Contreras defense have to be that you displace better DHs and add a pitcher's offense to your lineup?

Well, let's see. Baseball savant, bbref and FG have him about average at each site. Take three average ratings and divide by 3 and you get.....average.

The good news is that this is the last thing Mo and Oli will do before one or both of them get fired

The fan reaction in STL is apocalyptic.

How embarrassing.
   8. bjhanke Posted: May 07, 2023 at 04:05 AM (#6127195)
I'm willing to defend Marmol. He's basically done everything I thought he should do with the offense, including giving O'Neill a first-look try in the OF to determine whether he was worth keeping. He's been hurt by Arenado having a bad year so far, and Donovan, his star leadoff man, having a bad one too, inexplicably because he's not takings walks (his whole career, including the minors, he has taken those walks). None of the kids have stepped forward except for Gorman, although they've been constrained by the lack of playing time. Most importantly, Marmol seems aware that his basic problem is a whole bunch of kids in the OF/DH, who need to be sorted out. i can't imagine that it is his idea that Contreras be converted to a veteran OF/DH in that environment.

The pitching staff, I don't know. I think there's just a basic lack of talent. Relying on Flaherty and/or Mikolas to duplicate the one really good season in their entire careers is just silly, and the odds against it just came true. This is an ownership problem: the owner just won't spring for an ace stopper. He complains about salaries being higher than last year, every year. Well, just when, exactly, does he expect salaries to go down? I don't think he's being open about this. I think he's willing to put a weak team once field as long as it can get into the playoffs. The Cardinal fans keep supporting that, and ownership keeps taking their money to the bank.
   9. McCoy Posted: May 07, 2023 at 07:50 AM (#6127197)
I'm perfectly happy with the Cardinals
   10. RickG Posted: May 07, 2023 at 08:03 AM (#6127202)
Duke (7) is 100% right. Scapegoating. Also panic, from a group that doesn't normally panic. It's stunning to me how fast the org (and fans) turned on Contreras.

I know AVG doesn't mean much but teams are batting .275 against STL pitchers. That's Reds level, better only than OAK. Other stats are also bottom ten. If the pitchers throw meat, there's only so much the catcher can do.

Reminds me of when an NBA team fires the coach, because you can't fire *all* the players.
   11. bjhanke Posted: May 07, 2023 at 10:21 AM (#6127212)
I'm OK with Duke's scapegoating concept, too. I just think that Marmol has been doing the best he can. About Contreras at C - I'm not sure of this, because it is the aspect of the game about which I know the least, but I speculate that Contreras lost the pitching staff in the way that managers can "lose" the team. He seems to be very aggressive, perhaps a "my way or the highway" type of catcher, who doesn't take things like being shaken off lightly. Yadi was that way, certainly, but he had Yadi's Gold Glove to back him up. The Cardinal pitchers may be seeing Contreras as a guy who has Yadi's aggressiveness but without the superstar credentials behind it. This could lead to pitchers throwing pitches they aren't completely committed to, but think they have to throw because Contreras called them. Those are the pitches that get creamed. Please remember that this is speculation on my part. I'm an analyst, not a clubhouse regular. I'd love to hear an opinion of this written by someone who knows this clubhouse stuff.
   12. bjhanke Posted: May 07, 2023 at 10:27 AM (#6127213)
Oh, Hey! For any of you who might like to hear me rant in person, I'll be on Frank Cusumano's radio show at 11am on Wednesday morning, May 10. It's KFNS, 590 on the AM dial. Frank used to use me back in the 1990s, when I was publishing books and doing a column for The Riverfront Times. He's decided he liked the two I did earlier this year for him, so I'm back on Wednesday. It'll be Frank, me and Bob Ramsey.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: May 07, 2023 at 03:23 PM (#6127266)
He seems to be very aggressive, perhaps a "my way or the highway" type of catcher, who doesn't take things like being shaken off lightly.

It's hard to keep up on Cubs gossip from NZ but this would be news to me. His defensive limitations were openly talked about in Chicago. If anything, his rep would be focusing more on throwing and hitting than on framing and game calling. Yu Darvish used Caratini as his personal C. If Contreras was a redass, he seemed perfectly fine with starting only 90 games a year back there. Possibly he's tried to out-Yadi Yadi.
   14. Howie Menckel Posted: May 07, 2023 at 04:58 PM (#6127285)
somebody sobered up after a Lost Weekend?

05.07... Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told The Athletic on Sunday that Willson Contreras will not play in the outfield this season.
Spin: The last thing the Cardinals needed was another addition to their outfield logjam, and it sounds like the front office has decided to backtrack from some reports earlier this weekend that they were considering using Contreras in a corner outfield spot. The 30-year-old backstop has been removed from the catching mix for the moment and will serve as a designated hitter almost exclusively moving forward.
   15. The Duke Posted: May 07, 2023 at 05:57 PM (#6127290)
TODAY: St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak specified that Contreras will be a designated hitter rather than an outfielder “unless there’s some sort of emergency,” Katie Woo and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic report. Mozeliak also shed some more light on the decision to make the position change, saying that “obviously the Cardinals were used to [Molina] behind the plate for close to two decades. The nuances of that position, maybe very subtle, are what a lot of our pitchers were used to. What we were seeing was a lack of confidence.

“Normally, you would say, why didn’t you address this in Spring Training? But in Spring Training, it’s so different in terms of what people are trying to work on. Pitchers are going a couple of innings. It doesn’t really count….We just decided to do it head on, put it out there. Do we think we’ve seen Willson catch his last game? No. But this is going to take a little time to get him to where we feel he understands the expectations of what this role is for us.”

What a bunch of claptrap
   16. Walt Davis Posted: May 07, 2023 at 07:22 PM (#6127312)
That sounds more like Brock may be right in #11 -- Contreras has "lost" the pitching staff ... which of course may just mean the staff are blaming him (or the absnece of Yadi) for their own miserable performance. To an extent, it wouldn't matter if the pitchers were right -- just like you can't fire all the players, you can't fire the entire staff. If they think Contreras is a problem then Contreras is a problem. Still with pitch comm technology, just let the pitchers or the coaches call the pitches. It could help if a couple of the vets stepped forward to either "support" Contreras or at least say they'll work with him as their personal C. Wainwright would be the best guy obviously and, at this point in his career, what's he got to lose?

Anyone looked at framing or changes in pitch distribution yet?

Beyond that, it's not like Contreras as a full-time DH is a great option either. That contributes to both the 2B and the OF logjams. He's still a top trade candidate if they can find an interested team.

It's still early and clearly nobodyy in the NLC is a powerhouse so, evan at 11-24, I'm not going to write the Cards off. But they look to be in more disarray than I've seen since, what, the end of Whitey?
   17. RickG Posted: May 07, 2023 at 10:06 PM (#6127330)
I mused this on Twitter, but no one bit, so I ask the esteemed commentariat here:

If Yadi's influence was so great, why have the Cardinals not thrown him a bank vault worth of money to come handle the pitching plans and tutor Willson?
   18. bjhanke Posted: May 08, 2023 at 01:38 AM (#6127352)
Walt nailed the idiocy of playing Contreras full time at DH. The current DH is Nolan Gorman, who is the only lefty power hitter the Cards have; their lefty cleanup man, and only 22 years old. Gorman's only other position is 2B, where Brendan Donovan, the leadoff man, plays. Donovan can move to the OF, but that puts the OF down as Nootbaar, Donovan and one open spot for all the kids (Carlson, Burleson, Yepez, maybe Walker later in the year). And that's not counting that Tommy Edman will have no position at all. The Cards have enough problems trying to find playing time for all the OF/DH kids without sucking up one of the available spots every day with a veteran like Contreras. Right now, Contreras, if he's not going to play catcher, is a liability, and should be moved off the roster as soon as possible. Yeah, expensive. And someone will have to take the fall for acquiring him in the first place. But this is what happens to bad teams. They make bad decisions. The Cardinals are, right now, a bad team.
   19. Brian C Posted: May 08, 2023 at 02:08 AM (#6127356)
This brings to mind Robin Williams' hilariously exasperated line from The Birdcage: "I've never had so much go so wrong so quickly!"

There have been a lot of free agent signings teams have regretted over the years, but hard to think of one that the team was publicly giving up on 35 games in.
"But this is going to take a little time to get him to where we feel he understands the expectations of what this role is for us.”

Translation: "Be more like Yadi, please."

Seems like just a case of how it's just hard to replace a legend. Yadi had been there forever, and then the next guy comes along and does things his own way instead of the way everyone's used to, and it pisses people off. The results hardly matter as long as he has the gall to be not-Yadi.

Frankly it sounds like the Cards are in denial about Yadi being gone and refusing to move on. Like a guy who's depressed after getting dumped and keeps wanting new dates to be more like his ex.
   20. Srul Itza Posted: May 08, 2023 at 01:22 PM (#6127414)
"The Greatest Fans in Baseball" have been spoiled by a remarkably long run of good-to-excellent performance in the front office and on the field. This reminds me a little bit of how Yankee fans were when the dynastic run came to an end in the mid-to-late 60's.

And This Too Shall Pass.
   21. base ball chick Posted: May 08, 2023 at 03:11 PM (#6127441)
Brian C Posted: May 08, 2023 at 02:08 AM (#6127356)
This brings to mind Robin Williams' hilariously exasperated line from The Birdcage: "I've never had so much go so wrong so quickly!"

Frankly it sounds like the Cards are in denial about Yadi being gone and refusing to move on. Like a guy who's depressed after getting dumped and keeps wanting new dates to be more like his ex.

- the person wanting the new SO to be just like the ex bout sez it all

- unsure why they picked a guy like contreras or if they had nooooooooooo idea the pitchers would dislike throwing to him so much. but making him the DH is beyond dumb. i know catchers have preferred catchers who are better blockers (like the yankee pitchers who hated throwing to posada) but every pitcher on staff is sucking mud because of throwing to a different catcher??? REALLY?????

srsly this FO has lost its tiny mind

- here and i thought the yankee dynasty stopped in the 60s because they ran out of HOFers and they couldn't rely on the KC As shuttle no mo

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