SF Giants Catcher Tyler Heineman Signs With St. Louis Cardinals

SF Giants catcher Tyler Heineman became a minor-league free agent on Monday. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
SF Giants catcher Tyler Heineman became a minor-league free agent on Monday. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /
SF Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Tyler Heineman
SF Giants catcher Tyler Heineman (43) throws the ball to first base to complete a strikeout during the second inning against the Texas Rangers at Oracle Park. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports) /

SF Giants Opening Day catcher in 2020, Tyler Heineman, has signed a minor-league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.

After spending the 2020 season in the SF Giants organization, catcher Tyler Heineman has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals on a minor-league contract, per his Twitter. While Yadier Molina is expected to be the Cardinals starting catcher, last season’s backup Matt Wieters is a free-agent. Heineman will likely compete with whoever else St. Louis brings in for a spot on the big-league roster.

Heineman was signed for a similar circumstance last offseason. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything for the Giants. When Buster Posey decided to opt-out for the season, the team was scrambling for a full-time starter. Heineman won the job out of the team’s second Spring Training and was their Opening Day backstop. Once Chadwick Tromp recovered from an injury though, Heineman was pushed into a platoon where he struggled.

His bat never excelled at the minor-league level, but he’d paired a good approach with a propensity for contact that Giants brass were probably hoping would lead to a respectable line. Heineman did post a solid walk-rate (8%) and limit strikeouts at an impressively low clip (12%). However, he was unable to impact the ball and finished the season with a meager .190/.292/.214 line in 50 plate appearances.

Defensively, Giants coaches were pushing their catchers to move closer to the plate to help their pitchers steal strikes. It paid dividends, but came with a cost. In the first few weeks of the season, Heineman was nabbed for multiple catcher’s interferences when the batter’s bat clipped his glove on their swing. Still, his above-average framing added far more value than it took away.

When top prospect Joey Bart was promoted, Heineman became the odd-man out, with Tromp shifting to the backup role. Aside from a short late-season stint when Tromp went on the IL, Heineman spent the remainder of the season at the alternate site in Sacramento. Once the season came to  a close, he was outrighted in a flurry of roster moves.

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Tyler Heineman will not turn 30 until next July and has shown he can play solid defense behind the plate and put the ball in play. That’s enough to compete for a backup job every year. If he can find a way to generate some power, he is well suited to take advantage. If he does, he’d easily be the front-runner to be the St. Louis Cardinals backup catcher.