With Yadier Molina out for the next two to three months, the Cards will be turning to fourth-year catcher Tony Cruz for the everyday catching duties. Obviously losing Yadi is a huge blow to this team, but his injury may not be as devastating as previously thought. I know many people are clammering for John Mozeliak to make a huge trade in order to fill Yadi’s spot, but I believe the Cardinals will be fine in the interim with Mr. Cruz.
So what has Tony Cruz done in his previous three years with the Cardinals?
The short answer? Not much. Cruz is a league average player who is not very good with the bat and neither good nor bad with the glove. From 2011 to 2013, Cruz hit .236 with an OBP of .262. Now, neither of those numbers are very good, but Cruz did have a down year in 2013 that is dragging the overall averages down. Overall, Cruz’s 2012 season is probably most indicative of his prowess with the bat as he hit .254/.267/.365 in 123 at-bats. Cruz still posted a -0.1 oWAR in that season which is just dreadful, but its a better indicator of the production we will get out of him over the next few months than his -0.6 oWAR of 2013.
As for defense, Cruz is the epitome of average. From 2011 to 2013, Cruz posted dWAR’s of -0.1, 0.0, and 0.1 respectively. Defense is where Yadi’s absence is going to felt the most as the Cards are downgrading from the premier defensive catcher in the game to just another catcher.
Well what has he done this year off the bench?
This year, in limited playing time, Cruz is hitting much closer to his 2012 numbers than his 2013 numbers. While a .241 batting average is certainly laughable, Cruz has increased his OBP to .328 which will hopefully be a precursor to a better approach at the plate. The hope for Cruz is that his bat will come to life with regular playing time rather than just coming off the bench cold. He’s only played in 22 games so far this year with 54 at-bats, so all of his 2014 numbers are of too small of a sample size to really mean anything. I would predict that Cruz will produce around a .25o batting average for the next three months with a slugging percentage just under .300 and an OBP just over .300.
So why exactly should we not trade for a catcher? This Cruz guy sounds miserable.
Yes, Tony Cruz is not a good baseball player, there is no getting around that. He can’t hit and he doesn’t have the defense to make up for his weak bat. However, the last thing the Cardinals should do is trade for a catcher. There are so many more pressing needs on this team that should be addressed before finding a new catcher. If the Cardinals can either bolster the back of the rotation or find a better bench bat than Mark Ellis, they will be better served. With those upgrades, the Cardinals can stay in this race until Yadi is back for the playoff push, and they won’t have wasted all of their trading power on an easily replaceable substitute.
This Milwaukee series will be a great indicator of whether or not Cruz will work out for the Cards. This series is crucial for this team’s playoff hopes and Cruz’s response to his newly starting role will be an interesting storyline to this series. Here’s hoping the Cards can power through and stay in the NL Central race for the rest of the year.
UPDATE: The Cardinals have claimed catcher George Kottaras off of waivers. While Tony Cruz still figures to be the primary catcher over the next couple of months, the Kottaras addition is a welcome sign.