Cubs: Willson Contreras trade options are being dictated by J.T. Realmuto

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The J.T. Realmuto question will impact a Willson Contreras trade by the Cubs.

It’s pretty widely accepted that veteran catcher J.T. Realmuto is the prize on the free agent market this offseason. No one knows where the two-time All-Star will land, but one thing is for sure. The Chicago Cubs will be keeping a close eye on how this shakes out, in hopes of potentially focusing on teams that don’t land him in a Willson Contreras trade.

The latest reports have the Blue Jays, Mets and Nationals connected to Realmuto. Last season, Realmuto – who is widely regarded as the best backstop in the game today – accumulated 1.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, and is just one year removed from throwing out a staggering 47 percent of would-be base stealers.

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MLB Trade Rumors predicts Realmuto will join the Mets under new owner Steve Cohen on a five-year, $125 million deal. Of course, it’s early in the offseason and no one knows just how this will play out. But it’s safe to assume there’s probably some overlap in Realmuto suitors and potential matches in a Contreras deal.

We recently speculated that Tampa Bay would be the ideal landing spot for the Cubs catcher. Despite making the World Series in 2020, the Rays got next to no production from behind the plate and they boast an impressive crop of young arms that could entice new Chicago president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. 

But you could see a team like Washington, which has been oft-mentioned to Kris Bryant rumors, kicking the tires on someone like Contreras. Toronto seems more likely to go the free agency route in my mind, but never say never.

Right now, we’re more focused on next week’s non-tender deadline, when the Cubs have some difficult decisions to make – including whether or not to non-tender a guy like Kyle Schwarber. Bryant seems the likeliest member of the core to be dealt this offseason, but if Hoyer really wants to transform the club and get a strong return, Contreras may be his best option.

While we’re waiting to see if the Cubs trade Bryant ahead of next Wednesday, any trade involving Contreras is almost certainly contingent on waiting for the Realmuto sweepstakes to come to a conclusion. If you’re a team in on Realmuto and you miss out, there simply isn’t any other catcher in free agency that’s even remotely comparable.

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That gives Hoyer an opportunity to dangle his two-time All-Star. While Contreras’ offensive performance wasn’t quite as strong as it’s been in recent years this season, he notably improved with the glove which, at the end of the day, should make him more valuable – both to the Cubs and to potential trade partners.