Cardinals' Contreras: More than impossible to replace Molina
The St. Louis Cardinals signed Willson Contreras during the winter meetings, and while he's eager to take the reins, the three-time All-Star knows that he can't replace his predecessor.
"No one could ever replace Yadier Molina," Contreras, who signed a five-year, $87.5-million contract to join the Cardinals, said in a Players Tribune article. "We all know that.
"It's impossible. Actually, if there's some word that means even more impossible than the word impossible … that's what it is.
"(Molina is) a first-ballot Hall of Famer. One of the best to ever do it. Yadi's a mentor and an inspiration to people like me."
Contreras spent the first seven years of his career with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis' most bitter rival, after originally signing with the organization as a 16-year-old in 2009. While he acknowledges the difficulties with crossing the aisle of the Route 66/I-55 rivalry, he also shared his eagerness to join an organization with similar goals.
"It's just all about winning," Contreras stated, adding, "(I'm) certain that I made the best decision here. Everything just feels absolutely right.
"This is a team that's built to win. They're built to win now, and they're built to win in the future, too."
The Cubs, meanwhile, have been going through a transition. After winning the 2016 World Series, the team failed to clinch the division in 2018 and pivoted away from contention. Contreras was one of the last stars remaining on the Cubs from the championship season after the front office traded away Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, and Anthony Rizzo, among others.
Contreras' addition addresses the Cardinals' most glaring need this winter: Behind the dish. The upcoming campaign will be St. Louis' first since 2004 without Molina, who played 2,184 career games at catcher - fourth-most all time.
The 30-year-old hit .243/.349/.466 last year with 22 homers and four stolen bases in arguably his best offensive season to date, playing 72 games at catcher and 39 at designated hitter.