Cardinals’ Willson Contreras moves to DH, outfielder: What it means for his playing time

Willson Contreras, who the Cardinals signed to a five-year, $87.5 million contract this offseason, won’t make up for it in the next two weeks for St. Louis. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Andrew Knizner is set to take over primary catching duties, while Contreras will be used as designated hitter and outfielder.
  • The team made a series of roster changes on Saturday, including calling up receiver Tres Barrera from Triple-A Memphis.
  • St. Louis also activated longtime starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, who is making his career’s final season debut against the Tigers.

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What does Barrera’s call mean for Contreras?

When the Cardinals signed Contreras this offseason, they did so on the pretext that he would be their primary receiver. However, with the Cardinals in shock and the struggling pitching staff, manager Oli Marmol and the front office came to the conclusion that the rotation could benefit from some familiarity. Knizner will now catch the bulk of starts, with Barrera serving as backup receiver.

The Cardinals want to keep Contreras in the everyday roster because he has one of the best OPS ratings on the team (.782). To do that, St. Louis will ask Contreras to serve as the team’s designated hitter. The Cardinals will also face Contreras in the outfield. He played 35 total games in the outfield throughout his seven-year career, 32 of them in left field.

“We had a lot of conversations about it,” Marmol said. “It allows for some familiarity behind the plate with our guys, which I think will help, especially in the state we’re in.

“There are certain things and certain ways in which we operate that Willson continues to learn and learn. It’s a difficult thing to come from a different organization and learn all of this. We have an internal strategy to help with that, which will start moving in that direction over the next few weeks. »

Part of the reason Contreras decided to sign with St. Louis was because he wanted to be a full-time receiver. The Cardinals also identified this as a critical trait when looking for one in the offseason. Now, it looks like St. Louis has changed course.

“It’s tough, but I’m an employee,” Contreras said. “I know my primary position is contagious, but if they want me to do more DH, there’s nothing I can do about it except be the best hitter I can be.”

“One thing I want to say very clearly is that we don’t lose games because of Willson Contreras,” added Marmol. “He’s a guy who’s done an incredible amount of work to be able to get familiar with one, our pitchers, and also how we do things. He DH a decent amount going forward and then we have a strategy of what it looks like beyond that. — woo

How will the Cardinals balance Contreras’ playing time?

The Cardinals already have a packed outfield. Tyler O’Neill landed on the 15-day IL with a left lower back injury Friday, but St. Louis still has to manage consistent playing time for Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar, Alec Burleson and Juan Yepez. The outfield stalemate has already played a part in top prospect Jordan Walker’s option for Triple A. Moving Contreras to a corner will only complicate this matter further.

Contreras seeing significant reps as a designated hitter also complicates matters for Nolan Gorman, who leads the Cardinals with seven home runs this season. Gorman could move to second base while Contreras DHs, but that would leave room in the field for Tommy Edman, Brendan Donovan and Paul DeJong.

At the worst of the National League 10-23, the Cardinals are in no position to stagnate. But from a short-term perspective, moving Contreras from behind the plate only scrambles playing time for the rest of the roster. — woo


Barrera, 28, will make his debut for the Cardinals after signing with the team this offseason. In 12 games with Memphis this year, he batted .255 with four home runs and 15 RBIs. The roster changes come as the Cardinals look to fill their gaps early in the season. The team is 10-23 heading into Saturday, with the most losses in the National League.

Wainwright, who opened the season on the IL after sustaining a groin sprain in March, has made 457 career appearances for the Cardinals since debuting with the team in 2005. His 195 wins are third in the league. franchise history and 2,147 strikeouts are second. most of them. Wainwright announced in October, when he signed a one-year extension, that 2023 would be his final season.

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(Photo: Jim Rassol/USA Today)

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