In an unfortunate spring training incident, Brayan Pena slipped in a visiting dugout just as the season was drawing near. As a result, Pena had surgery on his left knee, keeping him out of game action until a few weeks ago. After spending the maximum 20 days on a rehab assignment, Pena is rejoining the team. Eric Fryer, who did nothing wrong in his time with the Cardinals, has been designated for assignment with the hope that the Cardinals will be able to pass him through to Memphis.
Fryer hit well for the Cardinals, with a .368/.415/.421 line good for a 133 wRC+. However, he did so in just 41 plate appearances, which is sort of the problem. Fryer was not a good enough reason to give Yadier Molina more time off, which he very much needs. Fryer started just 8 of the Cardinals first 75 games, and Yadier Molina has caught 580.1 innings this year, 50 innings more than second-place Salvador Perez.
Pena was given a two-year contract in the offseason due to his status as a veteran handler of pitchers who has started in the past. This track record and experience was supposed to be helpful in providing Molina more days off. Molina started the season off very well, but his offensive numbers have taken a dive, down to .266/.336/.345 with an 87 wRC+ on the season.
Whether the addition of Pena will actually result in Molina getting much needed time off remains to be seen. It’s not entirely clear who decides when Molina makes his starts. It certainly seems as though Yadi decides when he wants to play or if he wants to take the day off. If he is willing to cede more time to Pena than he was to Fryer that would be a welcome change as Molina has been overworked for years and it appears to have been catching up with him.
As for Fryer, teams will have the opportunity to claim him on waivers if they want to put him on their 40-man roster. If he clears waivers, Fryer could then be sent to Memphis where he would continue to get work at catcher should the need in St. Louis arise again. He is no longer on the 40-man roster, however, and would need to be put back on it to be called up.
The Cardinals have 38 players on their 40-man roster and could clear an other spot by putting Jordan Walden on the 60-day disabled list.