It’s important to note up front where things stand on the Willson Contreras trade front: although Cubs President Jed Hoyer made clear that the Cubs are not out there actively shopping Contreras, and any trade involving a guy like that would be about building for the future rather than saving money, he also made clear that the Cubs *are* looking to make trades for the future. And the reality is that arguably no Cubs player has more trade value than Contreras at the moment.
So, yes, there are going to be conversations. And if a great offer comes along, yes, the Cubs are going to consider it. That doesn’t mean a trade is definitely going to happen, and it certainly doesn’t mean a trade is imminent. But with the Cubs reportedly in on a starting-adjacent “back-up” catcher in Jason Castro, you have to wonder whether they would want a guy like Castro precisely because he could become an acceptable starter in the event Contreras were moved.
OK. Enough throat-clearing. The rumor from Ken Rosenthal this morning, in a roundup of other rumors and analysis you’ll want to check out:
Angels manager Joe Maddon was a strong advocate for Willson Contreras during their time together with the Cubs, so perhaps it’s no surprise the Angels are showing interest in trading for the catcher, according to major-league sources.
No deal appears close, but Contreras, 28, would be an excellent fit for the Angels, whose top returning catcher, Max Stassi, might miss the start of the season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
Stassi, 29, is not necessarily the answer even when healthy – he had a .611 career OPS before popping an .866 in 105 plate appearances last season, including a 1.024 against left-handed pitching. The fiery Contreras, who is under control for two more seasons, would bring energy to the Angels, whose position players are mostly older veterans.
Rosenthal goes on to mention specific prospect names the Cubs could target in a deal, which is one of those steps taken by a reporter – *in my experience* – when he’s heard those names mentioned by a source. It could merely be speculative by that source, but it could also be that the names have come up. In this case, it’s a trio of positional prospects – outfielder Jordyn Adams, 21; middle infielder Jeremiah Jackson, 20; or shortstop Kyren Paris, 19. Those are the Angels three through five prospects, after the top two of Brandon Marsh and Reid Detmers, who are the only two sure-fire top 100 prospects in the system.
… so let me offer that the names mentioned are probably coming from an Angels source. Especially since the line in the report mentions “prying loose one” of those three. I understand there is shell shock from the Yu Darvish trade, but let’s keep things in perspective. Contreras is one of the best three catchers in baseball, having now paired elite framing skills with his excellent defense and offense. Getting him for two years and a total of about $15 million or so via arbitration is going to require a SUBSTANTIAL return. Not one single very good prospect outside the top 100.
To that end, you can bet the Cubs would be asking about Marsh, a near-big-league-ready outfield prospect with a great bat. The Cubs might also ask about Detmers, the 10th overall pick this past draft, and a stud lefty originally from Illinois who attended Louisville (where the Cubs have scouted extensively over the years). And, yes, the Cubs might ask about former top three overall prospect Jo Adell, whose debut in 2020 was a disaster across the board. Maybe that scares you off, or maybe it makes the Angels open to CONSIDERING dealing him. The 21-year-old outfielder may have literally been the worst player in baseball in 2020 (by WAR, he was), but the upside there is still superstar level. I tend to think the Angels wouldn’t move him right now, but hey, you never know. (The same is probably true for infielder David Fletcher.)
All of this is to say there’s a rumor out there connecting the Angels to Contreras, where there’s an obvious need and fit. Given the presence (and aging) of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, plus the remaining team control on Shohei Ohtani, you’d think the Angels would want to push very aggressively right now. Catcher is a spot where they could upgrade substantially, and Contreras is a guy who brings that upgrade. The Angels also now have a new GM in place, plus a loaded farm system. A lot of this makes obvious sense.
But the return would have to be enormous. This one does not involve money. Period. The Cubs have already slashed a tremendous amount of payroll already this offseason.