I understand all of this. I have no right to be annoyed by it. But I just don’t like to think about it.
Here’s the reality:
1.) Willson Contreras is going to be a free agent, largely by virtue of the Chicago Cubs’ decision not to engage him seriously in extension talks over the last few years. We can debate the wisdom of that approach, but it just seems like the Cubs have made it very clear that they intend to go defense-first behind the plate in the years ahead, rather than commit a large sum to Contreras in his 30s.
2.) The St. Louis Cardinals are losing their long-time catcher, Yadi Molina, to retirement after this season. They have an obvious starting-level opening behind the plate heading into 2023.
Combine those two things, and the “hey, what about Contreras to the Cardinals?” stuff is going to come. Some of it already has, with the Cardinals supposedly “definitely” going to be in on Contreras. As I said, I don’t like it, but I accept it.
And now there’s this:
Contreras admitted he’s considered the opening on the Cardinals, and the friend with whom he spoke was Jose Quintana, who has been flourishing with the Cardinals since a midseason trade from the Pirates. (HOW DARE YOU, JOSE?!?!?) Contreras got a positive report from Quintana on the culture there. You can read more from Gordon Wittenmyer on Contreras’s impending free agency, and the possible Cardinals fit.
Will that actually happen? Contreras to the Cardinals? Eh, there are still plenty of hurdles. For one, the Cardinals have had the pre-eminent defense-first catcher in baseball (the guy who does all the ‘soft factor’ stuff in getting the most out of the pitching staff) for a couple decades. Are they going to completely change course and go with a bat-first guy? Maybe, maybe not.
Then there’s the qualifying offer to consider – the Cubs will likely make it, at which point Contreras will have to decide whether to accept or reject the one-year, $19-ish million offer. Would the Cardinals definitely top that offer by a whole lot even after the attachment of draft pick compensation? I would *THINK* Contreras should have more value than that on the open market, but as we saw at the trade deadline, sometimes your expectations on market value can be off the mark.
That is all to say, I’m not particularly eager to go down the rabbit hole on this one, at least not today. I’m most interested in first seeing the qualifying offer process play out – like I’ve said, I think there’s a non-zero chance (5%?) that Contreras winds up accepting the offer. If that other 95% comes to pass, and then rumors about the Cardinals pop up, we’ll dig in more deeply at that time.
Not that I blame him for any of this, by the way. Contreras OF COURSE has to consider every option this offseason, even if it seems designed to crush my heart, specifically.