The Cardinals made what's likely their last addition of the offseason on Tuesday, adding backup catcher Gerald Laird to the fold with a one-year, $1 million deal. Laird will back up All-Star catcher Yadier Molina.
Laird represents an upgrade over former backup Jason LaRue, who retired during the 2010 season after experiencing post-concussion symptoms after receiving a kick to the head from Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto.
Laird, who has started at least 76 game each of the past four seasons, is a change from the norm when it comes to Cardinals backups. Generally, Molina starts almost every game, but Laird can give Molina a rest.
He's also a significant defensive upgrade over LaRue. Laird leads all major league catchers over the last five years in throwing out 142 would-be base-stealers, nearly 36 percent over that time.
He's still seen as an outstanding defensive catcher, although his offense has been on the decline in recent years. He holds a career line of .242/.300/.358. His best year came in 2006, when he batted .298 with the Texas Rangers. He batted .207/.263/.304 for the Tigers in 2010.
Laird is also the first backup catcher to join the team before the age of 34 since Einar Diaz in 2004.
However, the Cardinals farm system is flush with capable catching prospects—Bryan Anderson, Robert Stock and Steve Hill, to name a few. And Laird isn't exactly a great influence on those guys, either. He and his younger brother, a Yankees minor leaguer, were arrested on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct after attending a Phoenix Suns game.
If they weren't going in-house, though, Laird was probably the best options. The market for backup catchers was very thin. Bengie Molina fielded offers from the Cardinals, but wanted starter-type money. Other options included Josh Bard and Ramon Castro.
With Laird added, the Cardinals will likely carry 13 batters into the season: Molina, Laird, Albert Pujols, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot, David Freese, Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso.
The Cardinals will probably carry 12 pitchers: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte, Kyle McClellan, Trever Miller, Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas and Brian Tallet.
Pitchers Brian Augenstein, Maikel Cleto, David Kopp, Adam Reifer, Francisco Samuel and Eduardo Sanchez, as well as catchers Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson, and batters Zach Cox, Mark Hamilton, Pete Kozma and Adron Chambers round out the active roster.
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