After trading Yu Darvish, the Cubs are now shopping Willson Contreras.
Come Opening Day, I’m not sure who will be behind the dish for the Chicago Cubs. For several years, the team has boasted one of the best catching duos in the game. But after trading Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres in the Yu Darvish trade, the front office has now focused on trading the other half of that tandem in Willson Contreras.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Chicago is ‘extensively shopping’ the two-time All-Star. Long heralded for his abilities with the bat, Contreras made strides defensively in 2020, particularly in regards to pitch framing. That, paired with the fact he has two years of arbitration eligibility left, will no doubt make him an intriguing option for teams looking to shore up their catching ranks heading into next year.
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Unlike someone like Kris Bryant or Javier Baez, two other potential trade pieces, Contreras represents a trade chip a team could control through 2022. Of course, Baez, Bryant and teammate Anthony Rizzo are all slated to hit free agency at the end of the upcoming campaign.
MLB Trade Rumors speculates the Nationals, Cardinals, Phillies, Astros, Blue Jays and Yankees as potential fits in a Contreras deal. A couple of those stand out – for differing reasons.
Earlier in the offseason, Washington was connected to the Cubs in a string of Kris Bryant rumors. Since then, GM Mike Rizzo has openly refuted his team’s reported interest in the former MVP, but it’s widely known the Nats are looking for another middle-of-the-order bat. Contreras certainly checks that box.
The Phillies are still in contact with free agent J.T. Realmuto, who is widely regarded as the best all-around catcher in the game today. The only problem is he’s reportedly seeking a nine-figure deal. Should Philadelphia pivot away from Realmuto, Contreras could prove to be a far more palatable option financially.
As for the Cardinals, while I see the fit, I cannot and will not envision a world where the Cubs trade Contreras to a division rival. Yadier Molina is still out there and I’d imagine he winds up back with the Redbirds to finish out his big league career.
One team you didn’t see on that list? The Tampa Bay Rays – who were viewed as a ‘perfect’ fit in a Contreras deal previously. Why? They’ve since brought back Mike Zunino and traded for former top catching prospect Francisco Mejia this week when they sent Blake Snell to the Padres.
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What I’m saying, though, is this. The Cubs have a ton of options when it comes to a market for Contreras’ services. But I’m here to tell you that if the return is as high-risk, high-reward as the guys who came over in the Darvish trade, as opposed to more of a proven talent, I’m not sure Tom Ricketts will ever want to show his face again in Wrigleyville.