REPORT: Cubs and Astros Agreed to a Willson Contreras Deadline Trade But Dusty Baker Helped Shut It Down

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REPORT: Cubs and Astros Agreed to a Willson Contreras Deadline Trade But Dusty Baker Helped Shut It Down

Chicago Cubs

In a celebratory, retrospective, here’s-how-it-all-happened article about the 2022 world champion Houston Astros, ESPN’s Jeff Passan slipped in something of a whopper about this year’s trade deadline: there WAS a deal in place for Willson Contreras with the Astros. But manager Dusty Baker and owner Jim Crane killed it.

Per Passan’s report: the Cubs and Astros’ front offices were agreement at the deadline to trade Contreras straight up for pitcher Jose Urquidy. It just had to get ownership approval. But Crane, leaning on input from Baker, spiked the deal.

Get this jaw-dropping quote from Baker: “Much as I like Willson Contreras, Urquidy was one of our best pitchers then,” Baker said. “I needed a guy that wasn’t going to complain about not playing every day. And this is his [free agent] year. See, that’s tough. When you trade for a player in his [free agent] year. Everybody’s about numbers and stuff, and I can’t blame them, no doubt. But that’s not what we needed.”

To be sure, Baker and Crane just won the World Series. Hard to say they made the wrong decision here, as much as they could’ve used Contreras’s bat.

But boy do I hate the implication there that Contreras would’ve come to the Astros as a me-first player, complaining about playing time, and not trying to help the team win. Contreras could’ve DH’d half the time and been an upgrade. Whatever. I choose to believe Willson would’ve gotten his numbers, yes, but also would’ve helped the Astros win.

Didn’t happen, though, and Baker was a driving force behind it. Because he thought Contreras would be a complainer. That really bothers me, and it’s probably gonna stick in my craw for a while when I think about Dusty Baker.

Now the question … how much did the Cubs miss out because of it?

Urquidy, 27, may not have been quite as good as some of the national spotlight suggested a couple years ago when he went on a hot run out of nowhere. Instead, he’s been something more like an average-ish pitcher (with peripherals much worse than that), who works command/control up in the zone. That means he doesn’t walk anyone, but he also doesn’t get many strikeouts and works to get weak fly outs. The downside there is that he’s got an enormous home run rate (1.47 per 9 for his career), and leaves him open to implosion outings.

Overall, Urquidy has sported a 3.74 ERA over 342.0 big league innings (9% better than league average), with a 4.35 FIP (6% worse than league average).

I would regard Urquidy as a quality depth starter with some mid-rotation upside, who would have come with three years of team control in arbitration. Nice guy to have in the mix. Would’ve been happy to have seen the Cubs make the trade. But I’m not actually gnashing my teeth that it didn’t happen. Sure, I’d probably rather have three arb years of Urquidy than a compensatory draft pick (which the Cubs will get – after the second round – when Contreras signs elsewhere), but it’s not quite a home run.

Interesting aside: any chance the Cubs and Astros try to work out a separate deal for Urquidy this offseason? The sides know the Cubs want him and the Astros will part with him. Maybe the Cubs see an angle where they can tweak things just a touch to help him realize that mid-rotation ability?

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.