If the Chicago Cubs trade Willson Contreras the Tampa Bay Rays are a fit.
From all indications, the Chicago Cubs are going to get quite a makeover this offseason. One of the team’s most valuable trade chips is All-Star catcher Willson Contreras who is likely to receive attention from other teams sooner rather than later. We’ve already discussed how the Yankees make a great fit for him, but there’s another AL East team in desperate need of catching help this offseason.
The Rays made it to the World Series last year, but ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games because of a lack of offense. The catching position was particularly weak for them throughout the year with Mike Zunino being their main backstop. Zunino was abysmal at the plate, hitting for a paltry 65 OPS+, so they could really use an offensive boost behind the dish.
Naturally, this year they are looking for catching in spades to improve upon a group that put up a combined -0.4 fWAR last year. The Cubs, who have an abundance of catching, could make out big if they deal Contreras to Tampa.
What makes the Rays a particularly good fit for a trade is their wealth of prospects that they might be willing to part with for Contreras. Don’t get me wrong, the Cubs aren’t going to pry Wander Franco from their farm system, but getting one of Shane Baz, Josh Lowe, or possibly even Xavier Edwards as a key piece in the trade would be a great return. The Rays farm system is full of pieces the Cubs would want for the future and now is the perfect time to capitalize on Tampa Bay’s needs.
The catching free agent market isn’t that great beyond J.T. Realmuto this year. Given their low payroll and stacked farm system, the Rays would be far more interested in trading for a premium catcher than picking one up on the free agent market. Contreras will be one of the most valuable backstops available this year and given his vast improvements in framing as well as his solid bat, he’s exactly what the Rays would want.
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Losing Contreras will be a blow to the Chicago Cubs, but it was clear that rumors about the young catcher were likely going to crop up again this offseason, especially if the team couldn’t do anything in October. If they’re going to trade him to anyone, the Rays are a good fit for both teams. They have the talent to make a Contreras deal happen while setting the Cubs up for the future.