Willson Contreras’s Second Emotional Goodbye, and the Impact of His Slump

So was that the last time we see Willson Contreras in a Chicago Cubs uniform this year? Ever?

A trade by tomorrow’s deadline still seems overwhelmingly likely, and Contreras and his teammates certainly seemed to think so after the loss to the Giants. Contreras was receiving hugs and some personal messages as soon as the game ended:

I didn’t need another emotional moment to foist upon me my own complicated feelings about what’s happening, but you can understand why this keeps happening. This is really hard for Contreras and his teammates. He can take all the emotional time he wants.

The game was another rough one for Contreras, who went 0-4 with a few pop outs and a strikeout. It wrapped up the July trend, where he’s hit just .149/.259/.230/45 wRC+ for the month, and where you could sense the tumult weighing on him as we got closer and closer to the deadline.

Unless there is some underlying physical issue, of which we have no indication, then I don’t think the slump will really be a huge factor in talks. First of all, even though it’s a “month,” it’s just 85 plate appearances. Before July, Contreras had 290 plate appearances of raking. Slumps happen. People know this.

For another thing, the quality of his contact this month hasn’t been that much worse than the rest of the season – the exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard hit rate are all down, yes, but only slightly. Similarly, the strikeout rate is up and the walk rate is down, but not by some egregious amount. A lot of the poor overall results this month are driven by a .208 BABIP that I’m not sure Contreras has actually earned.

So, you’ve got a combination of a little slumping, some bad luck, and a guy probably feeling the weight of being moved from the only team he’s known. He’s probably just really, really ready for this to be behind him so he can focus on playing.

That is all to say, I don’t expect any of that to fundamentally change the calculus on a trade. It won’t change the Cubs’ decision to prefer a trade, and it won’t impact their lofty asking price. I suppose it’s worth wondering if there’s a small chance that any of the top suitors will see the slump as an opportunity to stand firm on reduced offers. And if so, whether the Cubs will play that game of chicken right up to and through the deadline if necessary. I tend to doubt it gets to that point – where the Cubs actually have to suggest that they’re willing to just keep Contreras – but you never want to be known as the front office that will crumble at the last moment if the other side just waits you out long enough. (And, hey, at least at that point the Cubs could make him a Qualifying Offer after the season …. )

No, no. It’s still far more likely that a trade does happen. Probably sometime tomorrow afternoon. With no more games for the Cubs, they especially have no reason to rush until the pressure is felt on the other side. I still expect Willson Contreras to be traded, and I expect to be emotional about it. Again.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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