The Chicago Cubs are ready to make moves, and these 3 teams should make a deal for catcher Willson Contreras.
The Chicago Cubs openly want to reduce payroll, and this week’s deal that sent Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres may have broken the seal. According to USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale, the Cubs are now “extensively shopping” catcher Willson Contreras.
Contreras had a down but better year than many of his notable teammates in 2020 (.763 OPS, seven home runs in 57 games). He was an All-Star in 2018 and 2019, and he’s got a career OPS of .814 over 1,889 plate appearances with two 20-homer seasons on his resume.
Contreras has also become a good defensive backstop, throwing out 35 percent of runners last season (32 percent for his career). Last season, as cited by MLB Trade Rumors via Statcast, he was in the 85th percentile as a pitch framer.
Contreras is projected to earn between $5 million and $7.4 million via arbitration for next season, with another year of arbitration-eligibility after that. Despite that level of team control, the Cubs are motivated to move him as they consider all kinds of moves.
Teams who have a need but aren’t in on free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto now have Contreras as a cheaper, cost-controlled for the next two years.
Here are teams who should trade for Willson Contreras
Yadier Molina may still prefer to re-sign with the Cardinals, but the only team he has played for doesn’t seem ready to oblige his desire for a two-year deal — let alone a deal in line with what he thinks his value is at 38 years old.
If they can’t come together with Molina on a deal soon, the Cardinals may need to act quickly to secure a viable, proven catcher. A trade for Contreras gets them younger and likely a little cheaper at the position for 2021, while also taking a talented player from their chief rival. How much the Cubs care about the division rivalry element as they shop Contreras is unclear, but if the Cardinals ultimately come with the best offer, it shouldn’t matter.
Having faced him plenty, the Cardinals are familiar with Contreras, and to be frank, he hasn’t hit particularly well overall against them or on the road at Busch Stadium. But that should not necessarily prevent a deal, and the Cardinals rarely miss a worthy opportunity to add talent.