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It was reported on Thursday that Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina will miss 8-12 weeks with a torn ligament in his right hand. The 8-12 week timeframe puts Molina on track to rerun right around playoff time. Molina has been vital to St. Louis for years, and this injury diminishes their chances at making the playoffs in a competitive division. Yet, if they trade for a catcher to offset the loss, the Cards have the pitching to go deep into October.
This brings us to the Oakland Athletics, who currently have 3 catchers on their Major League roster in All-Star Derek Norris, John Jaso and Stephen Vogt. All 3 catchers play big-time roles for the Athletics, but if the right deal came along, Billy Beane would most likely execute it. As we saw last week in the trade for Jeff Smardzija and Jason Hammel, Beane is fearless.
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Of the 3 catchers, John Jaso would be the most likely to be moved. Earlier in the season, there were rumors that the Athletics may dangle Jaso on the trade market to acquire starting pitching.
If you compare Molina and Jaso’s offensive numbers this season, they’re actually quite similar. Molina is batting .287 with a .341 OBP and has 7 HR and 30 RBI. Jaso, in 91 fewer ABs, has hit .269 with a .350 OBP, 7 HR and 27 RBI. Offensively, the trade looks like a suitable replacement for Molina. But let’s not kid ourselves, Molina has made a name for himself by throwing out runners and handling the pitching staff. Yadier Molina’s offense has vastly improved over the years, but his dWAR is usually at least half of his oWAR. Compare this to Jaso, whose dWAR is actually detrimental to his value.
If the Cardinals are looking to trade for a replacement for Molina, they have to ask themselves what is important. Finding another Yadier Molina will be impossible via the trade market. Finding either and offensive or defensive catcher is a viable option. Overall, St. Louis ranks 28th in baseball in runs scored, and have just lost an offensive contributor. On the flip side, the Cardinals rank 5th in runs allowed.
The Cardinals have the arms to counteract a little dip in the defensive abilities of a replacement catcher. Replacing Yadier Molina’s offense can be done with John Jaso.
What would it take for the A’s to make this deal? This is where the speculation of this article comes in.
One name would be a welcome sight to A’s fans: Mark Ellis. Pair him with an A ball prospect, and that is a potential deal right there. Ellis is not faring too well with the bat this season in limited playing time, hitting just .192. However, last season in LA he hit .270 with regular playing time.
The Cardinals are known for their pitching depth, both in the major and minor leagues. Parting with a big-league reliever, or a couple of prospects could also get this deal done. Seth Maness is an excellent young arm in St. Louis, but it is doubtful the Red Birds would part ways with him, even under the circumstances.
The Cardinals may just roll the dice with what they have for the time being, but if they change their minds before the deadline, Billy Beane is always willing to negotiate.