Get ready, because Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is ready to carry this team.
We all know what Cubs backstop Willson Contreras is capable of when he gets hot. He’s done it time and time again, but he’s also battled his share of injuries as the number of innings he spends behind the dish continues to build.
Last season, appeared in just 108 games but earned his second consecutive All-Star nod. Contreras was on an absolute tear in the first half, evidenced by his .937 OPS. Unfortunately, he appeared in only 28 second half contests and that torrid stretch prior to the Midsummer Classic faded out of memory for a lot of folks.
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"“I prepared myself really well during the offseason,” Contreras told MLB.com. “I know it was longer than we thought, but I’m looking forward to having a good season, even in 60 games, and looking forward to helping my team to clinch a playoff [spot] and hopefully get to the World Series.”"
The Venezuelan-born backstop holds a special place in the hearts of fans. He plays with a passion that, put mildly, is contagious to everyone around him. He wants those big moments. But more importantly, he wants to come through in those situations, both for his teammates and the fans.
Of course, this season, it’s unlikely we see fans in Wrigley Field. For some, that might sap some of the motivation. I mean, there’s nothing like making a huge play to the raucous cheers of 40,000-plus at the Friendly Confines. Contreras knows fans need the team right now, though, and says he’s ready to leave it all on the line in 2020.
"“It will be hard,” Contreras said. “It will be hard, because we’re used to playing with fans. But, I will have the same mindset going forward, going into the games. I’ve got to think that there’s fans watching me from home. I know it’s different, but they’re still watching, they’re still looking at us like heroes. And I’ll be doing 110 percent to have fun.”"
There has been rampant speculation regarding potential contract extensions for members of the Cubs’ core – rumors that have since been quashed by the front office. We’ve primarily talked about former MVP Kris Bryant and shortstop Javier Baez, but Contreras is just as integral a piece to the puzzle as those guys.
We won’t see extension talks commence anytime soon, but if he can put it all together in 2020, Contreras will do himself a lot of favors in those future talks. Elite catchers are a rarity and, regardless of the organization’s strong depth in that area, this is a guy to build around. So mark it down right now. Willson Contreras is about to take us all on one heck of a ride.