With Willson Contreras now a free agent and linked to the Houston Astros once again this offseason, Astros manager Dusty Baker wanted to set the record straight on a nixed 2022 trade.
SAN DIEGO — Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker is ready for the offseason to really begin. After a postseason that ended with his Astros winning the World Series, there has been little downtime for Baker to savor the spoils of winning.
“I just planted my garlic the other day, I’m a month late. And I ain’t planted my onions yet,” Baker said during his MLB Winter Meetings interview time on Monday in San Diego. “My victory trail went right to the garden, and to my winery. I did go to my winery. I checked the wine.”
It was an eventful season for Baker and the Houston Astros, including a much-discussed trade that was nixed by owner James Click and Baker that would have brought Willson Contreras from the Chicago Cubs to the Astros at the MLB trade deadline. Now, with the Astros reportedly in pursuit of Contreras this offseason, Baker wanted to make sure he explained more about the trade that never happened.
“At the time, it’s not that I didn’t want him. It’s just at the time I didn’t think it was a proper fit with two months to go in the season,” Baker told reporters on Monday. “You have to learn your pitching staff. You have to learn how we go about doing things, and I didn’t feel there was enough time to do that.”
Contreras is the crown jewel of free agent catchers this offseason, but Houston’s choice to forego adding him to the roster last season did work out fine for the Astros as Martin Maldonado got the bulk of playing time behind the plate despite slashing just .186/.248/.352 in 379 plate appearances on the way to Houston’s World Series win over the Philadelphia Phillies. In Baker’s eyes, Maldonado’s familiarity with Houston’s pitchers was more important at the time than adding a big bat.
Baker is looking ahead now rather than in the past, and hoping that Contreras will come to Houston … if it’s a good fit for both sides.
“Going forward, yeah, we’re going to talk to him, and we have interest in him,” Baker said. “And if the numbers are right and the years are right and the situation is right, then — right for both of us.
“If not, then we still have got some catching depth in that situation. But people take a ‘no’ sometimes as rejection. And it wasn’t about that. It was the timing wasn’t right. I stressed that then, but it didn’t come out right.”
Baker had a chance for a do-over when it came to the Contreras trade on Monday, and Houston has a chance to once again land the All-Star catcher this offseason.