The Cardinals are about to find out just how well The Cardinal Way works without their leader. It was announced yesterday that All-Star catcher Yadier Molina would be out 8-to-12 weeks with a torn thumb ligament, leaving St. Louis to figure out how to replace his offensive production, stellar defense and leadership.
In past years, the Cardinals had seemed like a baseball hydra. You could lop off one of their heads but while you were fighting the rest of the heads, the other head would grow back. Allen Craig goes down? No problem, Matt Adams is here to replace him. Lose a starting pitcher to injury? Michael Wacha is here to save the day. Lose another starter? Perhaps we can interest you in some Carlos Martinez.
This time though, it looks like St. Louis’ cupboard might be bare as they search for internal replacements for Yadi. Tony Cruz and Audry Perez will fill-in for the time being, but neither appears to be a safe bet to even perform above replacement level, much less replicate most of what Yadier had been providing. The reason Yadier Molina has gotten MVP consideration the last few years isn’t just the number he puts up, but also what he means to the club in terms of handling the pitching staff, shutting down the running game and leading the clubhouse. It may sound like narrative fluff, but there may not be a single player that means more their team that Molina does to the Cardinals.
That’s what makes replacing Molina so complicated. They could try and scoop up a proven producer like the recently DFA’d A.J. Pierzynski, but his reputation for malignant behavior would seem to make that idea a non-starter. Their best bet is probably Minnesota’s Kurt Suzuki who has a good clubhouse reputation and conveniently remember how to hit this year. St. Louis would just have to hope that he can continue to play over his head for another two or three months. Suzuki certainly won’t replace Molina, but he could at least help St. Louis weather the storm.
The unfortunate side effect of this though is that it means that St. Louis will have expend resources replacing Molina, resources that they need to help patch up their rotation. As much as it might seem like the Cards have a never-ending pipeline of talented prospects, even they can only afford to trade away so much at one deadline. Then again, they may not have a choice with the tight competition in the NL Central where they already trail the Brewers and have the Reds and Pirates nipping at their heels.