ST. LOUIS — On the heels of Lance Lynn’s three-year deal, the Cardinals announced they signed back up catcher Tony Cruz to a one-year contract Thursday, avoiding arbitration. Salary figures were not released.
The 28-year-old was first-year arbitration-eligible at the end of the 2014 season, and is scheduled to be a free agent in 2018.
Cruz appeared in 50 games last season, hitting .200 and homering once in 150 plate appearances. Most of his action came over the seven-week stretch Yadier Molina was absent due to a thumb injury. Cruz started 21 games from July 10 through the end of August, splitting time with veteran free agent acquisition A.J. Pierzynski. In the playoffs he batted seven times, homering in Game 5 of the NLCS for his only hit.
Rather than looking at a free agency acquisition or low-impact trade, the Cardinals made it clear they were comfortable with Cruz backing up Molina. No catcher has caught more innings since 2010 than the Cardinal backstop, so finding an experienced catcher willing to take a significant reduction in playing time would have proved difficult.
Molina will likely see more rest in his age-32 season, but second string is still going to see sparse action, something the Cards feel Cruz can handle.