It’s not as if rumors about the Chicago Cubs being open to moving Willson Contreras are new – they go way back to last offseason, and then again this offseason. I mean, the headline there was that the Cubs were “very open” to trading Contreras, and that was just a few weeks ago!
But the thing is, it’s different when a new report comes out after the Cubs have started selling. It feels way more real:
The Chicago #Cubs, after trading Yu Darvish and non-tendering Kyle Schwarber, are now extensively shopping catcher Willson Contreras. Contreras is projected to earn at least $5 million and perhaps as much as $7.4 million in salary arbitration, per @mlbtraderumors
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 29, 2020
As we discussed earlier today, there is logic in the Cubs selling aggressively after moving Yu Darvish, especially if they’re seeking really significant young impact players. And I don’t know that the Cubs have a more valuable player – in terms of trade value – than Contreras, so I guess this squares. As much as, once again, I don’t like it as a fan.
With two years of cheap control left, and now having emerged as a top-tier pitch-framer in addition to his offensive and other defensive ability, Contreras should be extremely valuable out there. If your options are pay J.T. Realmuto $125 million or pay Contreras something like $15 million over two years? Yeah, that’s gonna be worth a load of trade value. And the Cubs do have to explore that at this point.
That said, in other ways, it’s a little more delicate than it was yesterday. Notably, Victor Caratini is now gone. We’ve talked about the Cubs’ relative catching surplus this offseason and how they could use it to create some long-term value (by way of trade or extension), but now the Cubs have done it. They traded Caratini.
If the Cubs were to ALSO trade Contreras, well, they would have zero big league catchers. Maybe that doesn’t matter if there’s a heavy restart going on, and if you believe top prospect Miguel Amaya is going to be ready by 2022. In that case, you sign a veteran to a cheap deal, let him pair with P.J. Higgins or Taylor Gushue, and just say whatever to 2021. I mean, if the return in a Contreras deal is significant enough, then I guess that could make some sense.
Stay tuned, sigh heavily.