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Ben Frederickson: After beating Astros in bold strike for Contreras, Cardinals should pivot to starter

Ben Frederickson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Baseball

SAN DIEGO — Great job, Cardinals.

Don’t stop, Cardinals.

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak and his team of decision-makers checked their biggest box here at Winter Meetings.

The catcher, not a catcher, is on his way to St. Louis.

Keep going.

Willson Contreras is a successful physical away from the official announcement of his five-year, $87.5 million deal with the Cardinals. Mozeliak doesn’t talk publicly until the deals are all the way done. He didn’t need to say anything Wednesday as he headed for the airport, wheeling his bag through the Hyatt’s lobby. The message had been delivered.

 

Oakland’s waiting game with a potential Sean Murphy trade was not something the Cardinals needed to keep playing. The ask was too high, and it would have robbed the Cardinals of two important young players for next season’s team, in addition to a promising prospect. Post-Dispatch lead Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold reported the A’s wanted Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan and a power-pitching prospect. No, thanks. Another problem? Oakland is moving at the pace of a Dakota Hudson start, pre-pitch clock.

Contreras, as I have been hollering about since early October, was available for nothing but money, of which the Cardinals have plenty, plus the draft-pick punishment required by his declining of the Cubs’ qualifying offer. For those fretting about that last part, get over it. It costs stuff to get good players.

I like Contreras better than Murphy for what the Cardinals need, which is a primary catcher solid enough — the Cubs started him in five of their World Series games in 2016 — and a hitter threatening enough, and a person determined enough to step into the very demanding and challenging role of leading the Cardinals forward from a position that was dominated for decades by future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina.

Contreras is not Molina, doesn’t need to try to be Molina, and should not be compared to Molina.

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