By Rob Rains
The Cardinals did not offer contracts for 2024 to four players before Friday night’s deadline, the most surprising of which was catcher Andrew Knizner.
The three other players, all of whom like Knizner now become free agents, were pitchers Dakota Hudson and Jake Woodford and first baseman/outfielder Juan Yepez.
The Cardinals did offer contracts to five other players eligible for arbitration – Tyler O’Neill, Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson, Ryan Helsley and JoJo Romero.
Knizner, 28, had the best season of his career in 2024, hitting .241 with 10 home runs in 70 games as the Cardinals’ backup catcher, a role he had occupied for the past three years. He was considered a favorite by Cardinals pitchers for his work behind the plate.
MLB Trade Rumors had speculated that Knizner likely would earn about $2 million for the 2024 season.
The decision, at least at the moment, leaves rookie Ivan Herrera as the backup to catcher Willson Contreras for 2024. Earlier Friday Herrera was named by the Cardinals as the organization’s minor-league player of the year. Earlier this week the Cardinals also added catcher Pedro Pages to their 40-man roster. He spent 2023 at Double A Springfield.
Playing for Triple A Memphis, Herrera hit .297 with 60 RBIs and 38 extra-base hits this season.
A text message to Knizner, who had been with the Cardinals organization since being drafted in 2016, was not immediately returned.
The moves to not offer contracts to Hudson and Woodford takes two more pitchers off the Cardinals’ roster at a time when they are trying to add pitching for 2024. Both split last season between the major leagues and Triple A.
MLB Trade Rumors had projected Hudson’s 2024 salary at $3.7 million.
Yepez also spent most of this season at Triple A, and was blocked in the majors by Paul Goldschmidt and was one of several backup outfielders and DH candidates on the roster. Yepez was a pre-arbitration player.
The moves leave the Cardinals with 36 players on their roster.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Knizner photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports