Chicago Cubs: Could the team moveon from their passionate catcher?
Currently, the Cubs employ Caratini and Jonathan Lucroy as catchers at the big league level while Contreras works his way back from the IL. They’ve also had Taylor Davis with the big club and Martin Maldonado caught a few games in between getting flipped for Mike Montgomery and then Tony Kemp at the deadline. Caratini and Contreras, though were the Opening Day guys and the point of this article. Contreras was the clear starter and star of the pair, having been an All-Star each of the past two seasons.
Contreras is 27 years old and Caratini is 26. Not that they’re old by any means, but catchers have a different shelf life than other players. At the MLB level, Contreras has logged 3003 innings squatting behind the plate in the last four seasons. Caratini, on the other hand, has considerably fewer miles on his knees at only 712 innings wearing the tools of ignorance.
The difference may be negligible to some, but that’s roughly two seasons worth of catching, at a position noted for wearing guys down in a hurry. Add to that the passion and reckless abandon with which Contreras plays, and it’s not a stretch to say Caratini might have a few more years left on his knees than Contreras does.
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In addition, Contreras has suffered through some injuries that make you question his susceptibility to more issues in the future. With two hamstring strains in three years, it’s fair to ask whether he has been overworked or if it’s the kind of thing he might aggravate at any point in time. Legs are a pretty important thing for a guy who has to bend them back and forth all day long and violently pop up from a squat numerous times during a game.
No one in Chicago would want to see Contreras go to a different club, but the haul for an All-Star catcher in his prime could be monstrous- especially given the free agent landscape the past two offseaons. Contreras would become the centerpiece of many clubs, brings a fire to the field, and plays the game with the enthusiasm many up-and-coming teams might be looking for. If the Cubs could pry away cost-controlled pitching from someone, maybe they would consider it.
Contreras is also entering his arbitration years, so the price for a guy who is the best hitting catcher and an already two-time All-Star will only escalate the next few years. Maybe the Cubs try and extend both players in the offseason and see where their demands are. If the price for Contreras is too steep, and they feel Caratini can handle the rigors of being “the guy” going forward, it could make the choice a lot easier.