Today, the Cards announced the following transactions:
9/4/20: Optioned C Andrew Knizner to the ATS. Activated C Matt Wieters from the 10-day IL. Outrighted RHP Jesus Cruz to the ATS. CPP at 56.
The backup catching situation is a thorn in the side of many Cardinal fans. As the years have gone by and Yadier Molina has gotten older, he has continued to play more, even as his defense has been on the decline. The Cards re-signed Wieters to a 1-year deal this year then at first carried both Wieters and Knizner on the opening day 30-man roster. In the Cards’ first 5 games before the COVID shutdown, the only appearance at all from either backup catcher in the field was when Wieters caught the 9th inning of the Cards’ second game against the Pirates, a 9-1 blowout. Wieters also pinch hit for Harrison Bader in the July 29th game against the Twins, the last before the shutdown.
Between the time that Molina was placed on the COVID-19 Related IL and the day he returned, the Cards played 8 games, with Knizner and Wieters splitting the starts equally. In the August 18th game against the Cubs, Wieters broke his toe when Willson Contreras fouled a pitch off his left foot. Knizner would pinch hit for Wieters in the 8th inning of that game, but Wieters would start the first game of a doubleheader the next afternoon. Molina returned to the lineup on August 20th, and Wieters was placed on the IL with a broken toe in the corresponding roster move. Molina has started every game since, including both games of a doubleheader, and is back in the lineup tonight after just 1 day off. Since Molina has been back, Knizner has entered the 6th inning of two blowout games and has 3 total plate appearances.
Knizner has 17 plate appearances, 3 singles, 1 double, no walks and 5 strikeouts and sports a .250/.235/.313. That is not a misprint because he also has a Sac Fly. Wieters is still looking for his first hit. He has none so far in 13 plate appearances, with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts. Defensively, Knizner threw out 2 out of the 3 runners who tried to steal on him, while no one tried to run on Wieters when he caught. Neither catcher has received strong marks for framing to say the least, but for what it is worth, in this short sample, Baseball Prospectus rates Wieters the slightly better framer.
Knizner has not spent any days on option this season so far. If he spends 20 days on option the rest of the season starting today, then he will have one minor league option remaining for next year when Molina inevitably re-signs. He will most likely burn that option, and the Cards will find another stopgap option until Ivan Herrera is ready in a couple of years.
Cruz has cleared outright assignment waivers and is back on the Club Player Pool. With Alvaro Seijas already removed from the CPP, and Ricardo Sanchez on the 45-day IL, the Cards will be able to accommodate the rest of the players in the Pool that will have to be removed from the 40-man roster when the remaining 4 players on the COVID-19 Related IL are activated.