Chicago Cubs: Willson Contreras might be what the team needs

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

As he nears his return from a hamstring injury, Willson Contreras will no doubt be ready to flip the script and lead the Chicago Cubs back to October.

With each passing day, the Chicago Cubs draw closer to getting their starting catcher back in the mix. Cubs Insider passed along an update on the backstop from broadcaster Pat Hughes, saying Willson Contreras caught Jon Lester‘s recent bullpen session and performed ‘strenuous’ running drills.

While that’s fairly vague, it sure sounds like the two-time All-Star is nearing a return. And while we don’t have too much on that front, one thing is for sure: when Contreras returns, he’s going to be a man on a mission.

Last week, NBC Sports Chicago offered an update on the backstop, saying this:

"“He’s in what our trainers are calling the aggressive strengthening phase of his rehab, which is building up the hamstring strength now that he’s gotten through the initial injury,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “Always what comes with that is the strength deficit that you have to really be mindful of building back up so that you don’t risk reinjuring it when you get back to full baseball activities."

This is a guy that’s quickly garnered national attention by playing with a tremendous passion and hunger that’s plainly evident every time he sets foot on the diamond. Given the Cubs’ declining postseason odds and recent up-and-down play, there’s no one who would like to step into the spotlight and put the team on his back the same way Contreras undoubtedly does.

Prior to straining his hamstring running down the first-base line in early August, Contreras was in the midst of another strong campaign. On the year, he boasts a personal-best .890 OPS with a .525 slugging percentage. He seemed poised to shatter his single-season home run mark, with 19 through just 87 games. Contreras needs just two long-balls to tie his personal high of 21, set back in 2017 – but the Cubs will need more than power down the stretch.

As talented a player as he is, in my mind, what he offers more than any other player on this roster – yes, even more than the seemingly likely to return Ben Zobrist – is a fire and energy that this team has seemed to lack at times.

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If you need a player to step back into the starting lineup and rejuvenate the team in an absolutely critical stretch of games, look no further. The Chicago Cubs issues certainly run deeper than simply missing their starting catcher for the last month – but Contreras represents one of the best young players in the game – and one who will be hungry to make up for lost time.