Theo Epstein notably says no player is untouchable, but Willson Contreras is one of the Chicago Cubs who should not even be considered in trade talks.
It’s no question people like to over-hype the ‘no player is untouchable’ mantra that Theo Epstein has, but it’s important not to read into it too much. It’s no secret the importance of this off-season and a few trades would definitely help spice things up, but there’s at least one trade that would be detrimental to the Chicago Cubs and that is one involving Willson Contreras.
Rumors have swirled about how the front office will have a talk about dealing the All-Star catcher. I guess the logic behind the rumor is that a return package for Contreras would help the Cubs fill many of their needs and Victor Caratini wouldn’t be a bad guy to roll with based on the season he’s coming off.
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It makes sense but should not even be entertained. I would go so far as to say Contreras is a diamond in the rough, and you can’t measure some of the intangibles he brings to this team.
In four seasons with the team, Contreras has batted .267 with an .821 OPS. On the defensive side of things, he has a caught stealing percentage of 31.23 percent, which is 16th amongst active catchers. It’s worth noting that of the 15 catchers ahead of him in this stat, only one is ahead in OPS and three in batting average.
The catchers that are ahead in average are Yadier Molina (.282), JT Realmuto (.278), and Buster Posey (.302), two future Hall of Famers and potentially three. The only active catcher that leads Contreras in OPS is Posey (.826).
The bottom line is that Contreras is one of the top catchers in the game and should not be considered replaceable. With Posey and Molina coming into the final years of their respective careers, Realmuto and Contreras seem to be left as the top-two catchers in the game.
This is just based on numbers alone, and when the intangibles are brought into play, the argument for Contreras only gets stronger. The passion he plays the game with can’t be matched by any other catcher in baseball.
It’s not hard to see the energy and fire he brings to his team and it’s not something that can be quantified. Pulling his hamstring during 2019 and screaming in frustration, bat-flipping twice when drawing walks in the 2018 wild-card game, and his home-run on the first pitch of his Cubs career are just a few examples of the ‘X-factor’ mentality he brings to this team.
Despite some injury troubles, Contreras is a special player that the Cubs will be hard-pressed to find another like. Bringing David Ross in shows us that the front office is trying to improve the culture in the clubhouse and doing anything with Contreras would most certainly cancel that positive move out.
Also, we’d ought to think that bringing back Ross, who helped our catcher play the best in his career in 2016, will help his growth immensely.
The argument to trade Contreras is there, but it would be the wrong move to make. The future of the Cubs relies on this off-season, but keeping the young, talented, culture leaders in the clubhouse are more important than anything. Keep Contreras and find other ways to fix this team.