Chicago Cubs: More off-days the answer next season?
To go a step farther, the athletic and positionally-flexible Willson also was used at a position other than catcher 10 times in 2017, while Joe Maddon only deployed him somewhere else a mere five times in 2018.
So, in addition to starting fewer games earlier in 2017, Maddon also chose to give Contreras a break behind the dish more frequently in 2017 vs. 2018 – while playing fewer games. Had Contreras stayed healthy throughout August and September, that number probably would have been closer to 15 games played at other positions, given how hot Willy the Beast was that year and how much Joe would have wanted him somewhere in that lineup down the stretch.
So, how do we make sure we get that performance from 2017 we so desperately wanted this year as Cubs fans? Simple: you give him more off-days where he does not play anywhere, and you give him some off-days from behind the plate where he can be deployed in the outfield or at first base.
The hope being, Contreras will be fresh, more energetic (not like he isn’t anyhow most of the time), and hit like the guy we saw for much of 2017. This also means you trust Victor Caratini (or a different veteran catcher if the Cubs go that route) with a few more starts, as Maddon probably struggled with the decision to give Contreras more of-days because there was no veteran David Ross, Miguel Montero, Rene Rivera or Alex Avila to turn to when Contreras needed a blow.
Willson Contreras is still a very young 26 year old All-Star catcher who struggled mightily through much of 2018. However, just because he struggled in 2018, does not mean he will necessarily struggle in 2019. In fact, if I were a betting man, I would put some money on the energy, enthusiasm, stick and cannon of Willson Contreras leading the Cubs young core back to a deep postseason run next season.