Contreras Always(?) Wanted the Cardinals, the Cubs' Catching Change and Pop Times, Fulmer's Slider, Reliever Trades, Bankruptcy, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Contreras Always(?) Wanted the Cardinals, the Cubs’ Catching Change and Pop Times, Fulmer’s Slider, Reliever Trades, Bankruptcy, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Happy Pitchers and Catchers Day! The baseball season has arrived, and I’m ready for all that comes with it …

  • For the first time in many years, one of the catchers reporting today will NOT be Willson Contreras. Instead, he’s now down in Florida with his new club. Contreras shared this story at Cardinals camp, and it kinda blew up yesterday (a reminder that this would’ve taken place in September, after a game early in the month at Busch):
  • What I didn’t realize is that Contreras actually shared this story after his introductory press conference in December, and it was even more intimate than I’d realized (

“I did get chill bumps,” Contreras told following his introductory news conference. “It was a nice moment I had with my wife, putting on that jersey. I asked her, ‘How do I look?’ She said I looked great, and I love the jersey even more now.”

From that moment, Contreras and agent Jose Mijares kept a major revelation to themselves. The gist: If all went well, the three-time All-Star would be a Cardinal in a few months.

“Yadier Molina sent the jersey to Willson and it said, ‘This is my last year, you are the future,’” Mijares said. “After seeing the celebration for Pujols, he later put the Yadi jersey on. He told me, ‘Jose, I know the money might be more in other places, but if you can make it happen with the Cardinals, I want to be a part of that.’ He was firm, and we got it done.”

  • So, by late in the season, Contreras specifically wanted to join the Cardinals. That was the plan from before the offseason even began. The Cubs never committed to him, and clearly wanted to make a stylistic change behind the plate, so it’s not like I’m going to grouse about Contreras mentally moving on (especially after the Trade Deadline). But if he wanted the Cardinals this much – to be Molina’s successor – then I think it’s all the more fair game to really let all this become part of the rivalry. Contreras wants the full Cardinals experience? So be it. Glad he got paid. I hope he has plenty of personal happiness. I hope he absolutely stinks for the next five years.
  • Speaking of the catching change … Very much agree with Codify that, thanks to the larger bases and pick-off limits, the catcher is going to take on an even greater role in controlling the run game:
  • If you were wondering about the Cubs’ catching duo of Yan Gomes (1.97) and Tucker Barnhart (1.99), each timed out last season at juuuuuuust better than average. That’s roughly where they were the previous two seasons, too, so that does seem to be their true talent level. Willson Contreras, as you would expect, tends to be among the best in baseball (down closer to 1.90 seconds). That aspect of the catching swap – in addition to the offense – will clearly be a step down. The Cubs have to hope that being average in pop time will be good enough, and that the rest of the defensive value (plus the soft factors) will more than make up for the change.
  • Even as the Cubs continue to work with pitchers on adding a sweeper (i.e., the type of slider that moves more slowly and more laterally, rather than having that sharp downward move), they’re bringing in Michael Fulmer, whose slider is one of the most extreme in the other direction. As you can read/see in this FanGraphs piece, Fulmer’s slider is one of the fastest and least-laterally-moving sliders in baseball, and last year it was his base pitch. I doubt the Cubs are going to try to turn the thing into a sweeper, and instead I bet they like the idea of having an extremely different look in the bullpen. Remember: even though Fulmer didn’t sign until late, he’s been a reported Cubs target going all the way back to the Winter Meetings. They wanted this guy.
  • More from Brendan on Fulmer’s unique slider:
  • Bryan with a thought on the bullpen composition and how the Cubs might maneuver:
  • I agree with Bryan’s sense on the budget, and it would also be true that moving Wick’s (modest) salary could make adding one of the remaining lefty relievers more plausible. What I wonder is whether there is a team out there that values Wick more highly than the Cubs do. I tend to think the Cubs still feel there’s breakout potential there, and I’m not sure another club would see it the same way, even at the price of simply taking his salary (at this point in the calendar, at least). I think the answer is probably yes, there are teams out there that would want Wick for $1.55 million (and a small trade return?). Doubt the Cubs would pull the trigger on something like this unless they had the lefty deal lined up, though. And, like I said, it’s possible the Cubs really do still see bright days ahead for Wick, who was once viewed as the closer of the future.
  • As expected, Diamond Sports (i.e., the owner/operator of the Bally Regional Sports Networks) is today kicking off their road to bankruptcy:
  • They’ll have the next 30 days to try to work out new arrangements with their creditors to avoid bankruptcy, but most seem to expect the bankruptcy is still coming – and figuring out how to operate the RSNs over the next 12 months as the bankruptcy proceeds is going to be the big issue. Consider that the interest payment Diamond is forgoing is just $140 million … but the rights payments to the 14 teams for the upcoming season are close to a BILLION dollars. Clubs and MLB are still operating as though they aren’t worried they’ll miss those payments, but if my team had a rights deal with a Bally RSN, I’d be pretty nervous about even a 20% chance of a MAJOR revenue hit this year.
  • (The Cubs co-own Marquee with Sinclair, which is Diamond’s parent. So they are unaffected by a Diamond bankruptcy, though they could wind up impacted longer term if, for example, MLB takes over operations of the Bally RSNs from Diamond’s creditors, and then tries to further expand its control over rights by – again, for example – buying Sinclair’s stake in Marquee.)
  • Kerry Wood, honored by Marcus Stroman’s t-shirt yesterday at camp, sends his well-wishes:
  • Very cool addition to the stats at FanGraphs:

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.