The St. Louis Cardinals embarked on a new era following the 2022 season.
Yadier Molina officially called it a career after the Cardinals’ postseason exit in the National League wild-card round, and the team opted to replace him with now-former Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. The two sides came to terms on a five-year, $87.5 million deal in December.
Cardinals general manager Mike Girsch entered the offseason with quite a difficult task to find an immediate replacement for Molina. As Girsch touched on during a recent appearance on MLB Network Radio, he believes that Contreras is just the right player to succeed Molina as the Cardinals’ starting catcher.
“Replacing Yadi is something that is sort of an unfair ask of anyone, both on the field and off,” Girsch said. “… Part of what we were trying to figure out is not just who could perform the best but also who had the right attitude, the right approach to step into those shoes.
“Again, it’s not a fair ask, but you don’t want someone to not understand what they are getting themselves into. Willson was excited about it … he was excited about the opportunity of stepping into those shoes and taking that role and running with it.”
From Contreras’ standpoint, he is not looking to replace Molina’s legacy in St. Louis.
“So, yeah, Yadi?” Contreras wrote in a story for The Players’ Tribune. “He’s not someone you ever replace. And I’m definitely not looking to do that. But I do want to say that one of the biggest reasons why I’m so excited to be joining the St. Louis Cardinals is because it is going to be a huge honor to try to carry on the tradition of excellence that Yadi established during his 19-year career in the big leagues.”
With spring training just around the corner, Contreras has lately been working to build chemistry with multiple Cardinals pitchers.
“He’s been working really hard with our staff all offseason, getting to know our pitchers, getting to know our advanced scouting process,” Girsch added. “… He’s actually been down in Jupiter couple of times a week with the guys that are down there, throwing bullpens already.”
Contreras is coming off of a potent season in the 2022 campaign where he recorded 22 home runs and 55 RBI.