Earlier this morning, we discussed some concerns that the Cubs are waiting too long to reach a conclusion on Willson Contreras, who’s entering his final year of team control in 2022. In short, if the Cubs truly plan to either trade or extend Contreras, then their apparent desire to hold almost all moves until after the new CBA is a particularly frustrating and limiting decision. The Cubs offseason should look entirely different depending on whether Contreras is around next year or not, so finding that part out sooner than later should be their top priority.
Whether they want to punt on next season *or* make some key additions, they (and perhaps some of their free agent targets) need to know if Willson Contreras will be sitting behind the plate.
Note, however, that the post was premised on the fact that we hadn’t yet heard of any potential Contreras extension talks. It was at least possible, albeit unlikely, that those conversations were going on behind the scenes with tight lips all around. However, I’m now told that’s not the case. As of this afternoon, the Chicago Cubs are not – and have not – engaged in extension conversations with Willson Contreras this offseason.
That’s the headline, but here are the caveats. First of all, the Cubs really do seem eager to hold all decisions until after the new CBA arrives. We can pan that choice all we want, which I did (it looks especially silly when the rest of the league is going nuts), but that doesn’t mean they don’t plan to engage Contreras as soon as it’s done. And who knows, maybe the Cubs are more optimistic behind the scenes that the lockout won’t actually last multiple months, giving them enough time to figure out a deal for Contreras and wrap up the rest of their offseason accordingly. I’d say that’s a gamble whether they are optimistic or not, but it’s a possibility.
Secondly, extension negotiations often take place after the flip of the calendar, and the Cubs have even said that’s when they prefer those talks to happen. Again, I think that’s a mistake in this instance, because trading Contreras midseason isn’t a very good bet and letting him walk at the end of the year will almost certainly net the Cubs a lesser prospect than they could get this winter in such a weak free agent catcher class*. But I guess it’s at least possible.
Either way, as of today, extension talks between the Cubs and Contreras are not going on. And I think that’s a strategic mistake on the part of the Cubs.
*(For example, the Pirates just grabbed a controlled starting pitcher and two quality prospects from the Marlins for catcher Jacob Stallings. There is simply no way any draft pick compensation is going to beat that next winter and, again, mid-season catcher trades are historically unpopular.)