Understanding Yadier Molina's impact should underscore the importance of a solid second option at the spot. The Cardinals didn't have it this season, due to Brayan Pena's unreliable knee. Perhaps Eric Fryer would have saved Molina some innings, but the Cardinals released him and bet on Pena. Clearly, that was a mistake. Next man up Alberto Rosario started only eight games. He's since been outrighted.
So, where do the Cardinals go from here? It would be incredibly risky to start 2017 without a clear backup. Finding someone manager Mike Matheny will trust for more than an occasional getaway game isn't easy. Carson Kelly (above) could be the answer.
Pena is under contract through 2017. If he's still around come training camp, he will have competition in Kelly.
Matheny has confirmed there is a chance Kelly could be Molina's backup moving forward. Kelly spent the end of the season in the majors after rosters expanded. Strong performances in the Arizona Fall League and spring training could convince the club he deserves to be coming off the bench in St. Louis instead of continuing his development in Class AAA. Kelly, a converted third baseman who has picked up a minor league Gold Glove since his transition, needs to play. Pena was a defensive liability before his latest injury, and that's putting it nicely. And Molina could use some rest. See how this could work out?
A lot of this hinges on Molina's workload, right? If his backup is going to get some meaningful work, a full season alongside Molina could do wonders for Kelly. If not, the Cardinals could try to sneak by with Pena and let Kelly get reps in Memphis. The Molina-Kelly combo sounds like the most appealing combination.
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