Since Yadier Molina's age 31 season in 2014, 5 seasons ago, the St. Louis Cardinals have trotted out 12 backup catchers. That's 2.4 backup catchers per season. Those 12 catchers have combined for just 874 plate appearances in 5 seasons, an average of 174.8 per season. They have also averaged NEGATIVE 0.68 fWAR per season. They've brought Molina's 11.3 fWAR during those 5 seasons down to a team total of less than 8 fWAR from the catcher position. UGH.
At age 31, catchers are usually past their prime. That hasn't been the case with Yadier Molina. Obviously. However, a team must have a backup catcher; even the Cardinals with Molina, and this story is not about their current starter, who is still Yadi at age 36.
This story is about a player who received a minor league contract today from the St. Louis Cardinals. That player is 32-year old (entering his age 33 season), former AL All-Star catcher, Matt Wieters. Wieters is a switch-hitting catcher who has been a better hitter as a right-handed batter overall in his career, but in the last three years he has taken on less and less of a role and been slightly better as a left-handed hitter.
Wieters at 33 is likely far past his prime, at least his stats say so. He's a career .251/.315/.410/.725 hitter, but that includes a five-year stretch in which he hit .254/.317/.436/.753. That stretch ended with the 2015 season. In the last three years, in which he was better as a lefty at the plate, he has only a .235/.303/.376/.679 line. It hasn't been pretty. Thus, my projections will not be either.
2019 Matt Wieters projections:
163 PA .230/.301/.372/.672 16 runs, 6 doubles, 0 triples, 5 homers, 20 RBI 19.0% K rate, 8.6% BB rate, 0 SB, 0 CS
How/If things go wrong:
Matt Wieters had quietly been one of the best catchers in the entire league, by DRS. He's been worth +25 DRS in his career. However, in the last 3 years, that has dropped significantly as well, as he has been worth NEGATIVE 7 DRS in the last 3 seasons total. Unfortunately, Baseball Prospectus doesn't have a very glowing report about his framing as of late either, leaving me wondering if this is really a good decision or not to sign him...but the old adage is that there's no such thing as a bad one-year deal. Not only that, but he's only signed to a minor league deal at this point, as is Francisco Pena. They can push each other.
So how do things go wrong? Well, if they go wrong we still have Francisco Pena as our backup catcher. While I'd still like to see them sign Martin Maldonado if he'd accept a 150-200 PA position, there's also this:
What can be pointed out to show that things CAN be better than that?!?
Wieters has had a rash of injuries over the last few years. If he can stay healthy, think about these numbers from 2011-2015 (and remember, he wouldn't have to stay healthy enough for a starter's workload, just as a backup):
4 out of 5 years above a 100 wRC+ (as a catcher).
1 year at a 134 wRC+.
12.8 fWAR over a 5-year stretch (that's more than Yadi's last 5 seasons).
He only played in 101 games over the final two years of that stretch!
He was about even in framing runs those 5 seasons.
His DRS those 5 years was +14.
If he can be a 100 wRC+ hitter and +2 DRS with 0 framing runs above average defender, he'd be by far the best backup catcher the Cardinals have had in at least half a decade.