Unless (1) they come via sourced information, or (2) are from a well-connected reporter/blogger who is potentially dropping a hint, or (3) are offered up purely for valuation discussions, I tend not to pay too much attention to imagined trade proposals from fans or media. I’m not ripping them as a category, it’s just that I don’t know that I get much out of them. Sometimes they’re entertaining, sure, but I am careful around here not to share them unless they fit into one of the three categories above.
I mention all of that today because, with the World Series nearing its close – it’s coming Tuesday or Wednesday, one way or another – the wild trade proposal season is upon us. You’ll see them more and more in the coming days and weeks, and I guess this is just my blanket admonition not to take many of them too seriously. They can be entertaining, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But unless there’s a specific reason to dig in more, you shouldn’t let any of them ruffle your feathers.
While we’re here on the topic, let me go ahead and mention one I just saw that falls into category three – it’s an article from Lookout Landing, a quality Mariners blog, hypothesizing Willson Contreras trades. The reason I wanted to see what they came up with is that they are smart Mariners fans, and I was curious to see how THEY were valuing one year of Contreras in trade. Sometimes it’s useful to get that kind of biased outside perspective to counterbalance your own biased Cubs fan perspective.
The author, Kate Preusser, was outlining how and why Contreras makes a lot of sense for the Mariners this offseason, and used a Jim Bowden imaginary trade proposal as a springboard to talk about valuing Contreras in a trade with the Mariners. The Bowden proposal, by the way, had Contreras going to the Yankees for catcher Gary Sanchez (a non-tender candidate), righty Deivi Garcia (brutal this year at Triple-A), and righty Yoendrys Gomez (didn’t get great results at A-ball this year at age 21, and is a marginal top ten prospect in the Yankees’ depleted system). It was not a great proposal.
⇒ Chicago Cubs trade C Willson Contreras to Seattle Mariners for C Tom Murphy, LHP Brandon Williamson; or
⇒ Chicago Cubs trade C Willson Contreras to Seattle Mariners for C Tom Murphy, RHP Juan Then, RHP Levi Stoudt
Both iterations send the Cubs Murphy to “replace” Contreras as a catcher, and, while Murphy comes with three years of control, his trajectory sure seems like that of a solid back-up catcher than a true starter:
So, for 2022 at least, the Cubs would be taking a huge step back at catcher, especially since there aren’t great starter options out there in free agency. Basically, they would probably have to look for another high-quality back-up type to pair with Murphy in an even-ish split, and hope that the defense makes up for the bat. It’s a big step down.
In exchange for the big step down, the Cubs would be getting either lefty Brandon Williamson, or righties Juan Then and Levi Stoudt.
Williamson, 23, was the Mariners’ second rounder in 2019, and is a clear top ten prospect in the Mariners’ loaded system. He pitched quite well at Double-A this year, and projects as a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues if he hits his ceiling. On first blush, he’s the caliber of prospect that would definitely turn your head a bit if you were trading one year of Contreras for three years of Murphy, and Williamson was what you got for taking the step down.
Then, 21, is a top 15 type who was getting all kinds of hype in 2020 during the shutdown, but then struggled in 2021 at High-A. Pure scouting and projection type. Stoudt, 23, is another top 15 type, who was making his pro debut in 2021 and wound up reaching Double-A (he had Tommy John surgery right after he was a third rounder in 2019). Both of these guys are quality prospects. Not quite on Williamson’s level, but they’d fit comfortably into that large group of Cubs prospects who could rank anywhere from 10 to 30 in their deep, deep system.
The point with all of that, remember, is not to think about this being an actual trade on the table. Instead, the point is the level of value being ascribed to one (arb 3) year of Willson Contreras. Murphy plus one very good prospect, or two really solid prospects, is at least interesting. And that’s the valuation coming from the Mariners’ perspective. You would usually expect a little more tightness.
Since we know the Cubs will almost certainly consider dealing Contreras this offseason if an extension doesn’t come together, it’s all the more worth considering how he is valued on the market – AND how the Cubs would otherwise fill the catcher spot for the next year+. It ain’t easy.