Well, this explains the St. Louis Cardinals' inexplicably stubborn devotion to a three-catcher roster: Yadier Molina is headed to the disabled list by way of a trip home for an MRI. (Here's Derrick Goold's tweet-summary.) It's a sprain, apparently, which is the one that's not secretly a tear, but it exposes the terrible secret of being so reliant on a great catcher: Backup catchers are just not very good most of the time.
That is, the Cardinals' trade deadline rumors were dependent on the difference between, say, Carlos Martinez and Jake Peavy. Now their immediate future is dependent on the difference between Yadier Molina—ZiPS rest-of-season projection .304/.358/.445—and Tony Cruz, ROS projection .235/.280/.339.
And there's not much behind Cruz and journeyman backup Rob Johnson, either. The fastest-moving catcher in the Cardinals' system this year has been none other than Casey Rasmus, currently backing up in AA Springfield and hitting .313/.353/.367 across limited playing time at three levels. Cody Stanley, the last bona fide catching prospect to make an impact, is hitting .251/.293/.351 in AA.
I doubt the Cardinals were caught off guard by the slow burn of Molina's knee injury, so they've certainly had enough time to trade for a replacement ahead of the deadline tomorrow. It doesn't really make a lot of sense to do it, though—unless Molina's in more pain than anyone has so far let on, any catcher developed enough to be an immediate solution to the Cardinals' depth problems would find himself buried once Molina returned.
Jenifer Langosch and our own bgh have a related question worth floating, though:
With the Cruz/Johnson combo getting Molina's PAs, how much more palatable does a marginal upgrade at SS become? #STLCards— bgh (@b_g_h) July 31, 2013
The runs the Cardinals are going to lose by trading an injured Yadier Molina for Tony Cruz are going to be expensive and awkward to replace, but shortstop's still relatively cheap. If they're worried about where this loss will put them in the standings in September, that's where an upgrade should happen.