Throughout the offseason – well, the non-lockout part of it – and then into Spring Training, we never got a whiff of actual, substantive extension discussions between the Chicago Cubs and catcher Willson Contreras. The 30-year-old catcher, who is in the middle of a career year, is set to be a free agent after the season.
Surely, with the Trade Deadline looming, and with the sides having resolved arbitration recently, there have been SOME talks, right? A check-in to see if there’s any chance of working things out before an inevitable trade?
Doesn’t sound like it.
“Even if they have talked, I haven’t been told anything by him yet,” Contreras told The Score of the dialogue between his agent and the Cubs. “I told my agent, ‘Do the best job you can do and let me know.’ Really, I don’t think they have communicated yet. I told him if he thinks something can be worked out, I want to know. I did tell him I am not focused on that. I am focused on staying healthy and being there to try to help this team win every day. I love my team, and I feel this is my place. I don’t want my team to be distracted by me. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I am good with that.”
As usual, Willson Contreras has the right attitude about all of this: control what you can, and don’t focus on what you can’t. If the Cubs want to have the dialogue about an extension over the next month, and if it’s serious enough that his agent feels something COULD happen, then Contreras will find out.
That said, he’s no doubt discussed with his agent the range of what he’d have to see before considering forgoing free agency – especially in the midst of a season like this one, where he’s been one of the best bats in baseball – and I’m still thinking there’s virtually no chance the Cubs are willing to go to the level Contreras would need to see to sign today. When you’re this close to free agency, a lot of guys just truly want to know what’s out there for them. Yes, for the right offer many would love to stay in the only organization they’ve known (I genuinely believe that’s true for Contreras), but that usually means free agent prices before free agency arrives.
So, from the Cubs’ perspective, I’m sure they’re taking a dispassionate look at the situation and concluding that they can trade Willson Contreras for a haul next month, and then, depending on how the market plays out, try to re-sign him in free agency (and avoid the risks of injury in the second half of this season after you might’ve signed a multi-year extension). We can debate the merits of that plan – or how fan friendly or un-friendly it is (or how obviously unlikely it is that they would ACTUALLY re-sign him) – but I do see the logic.
Of course, I also still have some serious questions about what the Cubs do behind the plate in 2023 if they want to compete next year – as they MUST – but extending Contreras has felt unrealistic for a long time now.
There might be that final check-in before the Cubs pull the trigger on a trade, but even that now seems unlikely.