Willson Contreras has loved his time in the Chicago Cubs organization, but it’s impossible not to feel like we are approaching the end. It’s how last July felt with so many other players, and having been through that, I think we feel that “end-ness” even more this time around. I get what is happening. I get why it’s happening. I could form the rough outlines of an argument why it’s the right thing to happen. But it still stings to think about Contreras leaving the Cubs, and no longer wearing that uniform that I prefer to cheer for.
For his part, Contreras will never burn any bridges.
I appreciate the things that players say on their (possible) way out the door, as it is usually so positive and diplomatic:
I do think Contreras would consider re-signing with the Cubs … if the money was right. And that’s the thing: he is very smart to say this on the way out the door, because there’s no reason to (1) limit your future market, or (2) create the perception that you’ve crossed a possible suitor off your list. And maybe he really is the rare guy who just so desperately wants to stick with the Cubs that he’ll come back on a reasonable deal (my gut continues to tell me the Cubs don’t value him as highly as some of the rest of the market will).
I tend to think Contreras does believe what he’s saying; I also just think he’s smart to say it, because the alternative – I’d never re-sign with them! – is just silly to say out loud.
Either way, an extension is not happening this month. So, absent a serious injury in the next couple weeks, Contreras is going to be traded by August 2. It’s just real.
We can probably be even more specific than that, by the way: Contreras is going to be traded sometime between July 25 and August 2. Why that week, specifically? Because July 25 is the deadline by which the league and the players must agree on an International Draft (h/t Patrick Mooney for the reminder on the date).
And why does THAT matter for trading Contreras? Well, recall, *if* the sides agree on an International Draft by July 25, then the whole Qualifying Offer system goes away. Which means the Cubs’ back-up plan for not trading Contreras – making him a Qualifying Offer and at least getting a draft pick if he walks – would go away. (Whether he could still net them a pick in the alternative system is possible, though not a lock.)
In other words, for a front office that desperately craves certainty before making a move, I can’t see them trading Contreras before they know what his future situation is going to look like. It impacts their perception, internally, of his trade value, and how much they must get for it to be “worth it.” The baseline might be a “comp pick” or it might be “nothing.” They’re gonna want to know which it is.
Barring some shocking, urgent, huge offer in the next ten days (more on that later), I think we have at least another couple weeks with Willson Contreras in a Cubs uniform.
Unless he re-signs with the team after the season! Which, again, I do think he would gladly consider. I’m just not sure the Cubs are going to step up with an offer that matches what he might get out in free agency from another club.