This time of year, there’s no telling what Cubs rumors will pop up. But the latest report involving Willson Contreras is a real head-scratcher, to say the least.
Friday marked the annual non-tender deadline in baseball, which usually brings a lot of news and Cubs rumors. The Chicago Cubs were already getting a lot of press for the controversial tendering of Addison Russell when a very strange report from Sirius XM’s Craig Mish came out on Twitter regarding catcher Willson Contreras.
Basically, the report says sources believe the Cubs could move on from Contreras due to possible interest in Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. This caught a lot of people off guard, with many wondering how possible it is.
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Willson Contreras is coming off a season which he was elected to the All-Star Game and then struggled mightily in the second half. Realmuto, also an NL All-Star last year, is one of the few notable veterans left on the Marlins and has been involved in trade rumors since last year. Could the Cubs really be considering this? And is it really worth it?
Evaluating the two catchers
The struggles of Contreras in the second half last year make it easy to forget he was an All-Star. In the first half, he hit .279/.369/.499 with an .818 OPS and 123 wRC+. Those numbers ranked among best in the NL among catchers. His lack of production in the second half (.200/.291/.294) was frustrating and not like himself at all. He did not ever really demonstrate the 20-home run power many thought he had, but at least he was getting on base in the first half.
As for Realmuto, he slashed .277/.340/.484 with 21 homers in 125 games last year. Those are pretty much the numbers people expected of Contreras last year in terms of home runs, average and slugging. His value right now is as high as ever for him, considering last year has been his most productive year-to-date.
Realmuto has played in 540 games and Contreras has played in 331. Some of their career numbers are fairly similar:
Contreras (26): .266/.349/.450
Realmuto (27): .279/.327/.442
Will they move on from Contreras for Realmuto?
Realmuto is going to be asked about by a lot of teams, including Theo Epstein and Co. That is what GMs do during this time. The whole “rumor” with Kris Bryant shows that baseball front offices shopping and laying things on the table is not saying an asset is going to be traded. There is no doubt the Cubs will be searching for veteran catcher depth, but the chances of them actually trading Willson Contreras are incredibly slim.
Yes, he struggled in the second half and there is still some needed improvement behind the dish. However, Contreras throughout most of his career has been a top-notch offensive backstop in this league and a big part of this team’s dynamic. He is under team control through 2023 while Realmuto is under control through 2020.
Is Realmuto one of the best in the NL? You bet, but when Contreras already has the skills and has proved he can be right up there as well, so giving up assets to replace what does not need replacing seems unlikely. There will be more cause for concern if Contreras continues to struggle in the future, but right now one bad half cannot overshadow what kind of ballplayer he has been.