A few weeks ago, Chris Lollis wrote about hypothetical trades and what a trade for a catcher might look like. If you haven't read either of them, you can check them out here and here. John Mozeliak has doubled down on the team's top priority is finding a catcher to replace the retired Yadier Molina. Rumors have been going around that Willson Contreras (whom has been heavily connected to the Cardinals) is meeting with the World Champion Houston Astros. Today, MLB Insider Mike Rodriguez, who has connections to Contreras tweeted that the Cardinals in fact met with Contreras Wednesday Night in what's being called a productive meeting.
Willson Contreras rejected the Qualifying Offer from the Cubs that was for $19.65M for 1 season. Since he rejected it, any team that signs him will now have to surrender draft picks. The saying that Contreras will only cost money is a little flawed. While yes, we would be able to hold on to our current prospects (which many in the industry call a top 10 farm system), we would lose a couple opportunities to add to that.
With that being said, I am going to rank the available or rumored to be available catchers. I am taking everything into account: contract (or expected contract), offensive production, defense, cost in prospect (via a trade).
1. Alejandro Kirk (Blue Jays)
My number 1 catcher to target is Alejandro Kirk. The Blue Jays are in a unique situation. At times, they carried 3 catchers on their active 26-man roster in 2022, including their top prospect Gabriel Moreno. Moreno I will be leaving off this list as I don't believe the Jays will trade him. As for Kirk, he's the youngest on this list of catchers at the age of 24 (age on Opening Day). He had his best season this past year slashing .285/.372/.415 and hitting 14 home runs. His biggest flaw is his weight. Many have speculated that his weight will cause him to stop catching. If it does, I don't see it happening for a long time. Kirk is under team control for 4 more seasons so he is going to likely cost the most in terms of return value. With that said, he also is capable of the highest return for the Cardinals in terms of production.
2. Christian Vazquez (free agent)
You might be a little surprised I have Christian Vazquez 2nd on my list. Honestly, I'm surprised too. I have come around on Vazquez after hearing he has been trying to mirror his game to Yadi. His overall numbers are fairly similar. Being that he 32, I think he would be the perfect catcher to bridge the gap from Yadi to Ivan Herrera. He won't break the bank like Willson Contreras is looking for. I think you could get him for a 2 year or 3 year deal with $10M AAV.
3. Sean Murphy (Athletics)
Many fans have been wanting the Cardinals to trade for Murphy. Unfortunately, I think the players that go to Oakland will be high prospects or good contributors. So why do I have the 28 year old catcher 3rd rather than a little lower on my list? He has a shot to become the best all around catcher not named JT Realmuto.
4. Willson Contreras (free agent)
Here is the aforementioned Contreras. I think he would be a great addition to the lineup. However, he only started and completed 61 games at catcher (he played only 113 games due to injuries). He had a very productive year at the plate, which was likely due to the Cubs giving him time at DH as well. Can the Cardinals afford to pay him a hefty amount of money and have him split time at catcher with Andrew Knizner? I think if they sign him, he catches more than not.
5. Daulton Varsho (Diamondbacks)
I am including Varsho on this list but I am not expecting him to be traded at all, which is why he's not higher on my list. I like Varsho a lot, but I think the DBacks want to build around them. He would likely be traded for a similar package to Murphy. Offensively, something he offers that the others don't is speed. Varsho stole 16 bases in 2022. He also would provide the Cardinals with a left handed bat, which they could use.
6. Danny Jansen (Blue Jays)
Danny Jansen is the other Blue Jay I think they could trade for. Jansen only has 2 more years of control, so the asking price should be lower than that of Kirk's. Jansen is better defensively and can hold his own offensively but doesn't wow you like any of the other guys.
7. Will Smith (Dodgers)
You might be wondering why a guy like Will Smith is on this list. They have one of the top prospects in baseball at catcher in Diego Cartaya. They are also hurting for pitching with Walker Buehler expected to be out for most, if not all of 2023, along with the departures of Andrew Heaney and Tyler Anderson. Could they be enticed by a Jack Flaherty-Will Smith swap? What about a Tyler O'Neill and Dakota Hudson trade? I don't foresee either happening which is why he's last on my list.
There are a few others that could be mentioned but I think one of these 7 catchers will be the Opening Day starter in St. Louis. If you had to choose, considering the cost to acquire them, who would you take? Thanks for reading and Go Cardinals!