Cubs Rumors: Joe Maddon’s Angels interested in Willson Contreras

The Angels are reportedly interested in All-Star Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) reported Joe Maddon and the Halos are looking for avenues by which to acquire Cubs backstop Willson Contreras, who played for Maddon from 2016 to 2019.

Rosenthal noted current Angels catcher Max Stassi could miss the start of the year following hip surgery, and Contreras (.814 career OPS) would be a vast improvement over Stassi (.659) regardless.

Chicago is still in a position where it could move the two-time All-Star catcher. Contreras is the team’s most valuable remaining asset, as he is one of the best players at a premium position and is also under club control through 2022.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer suggested a previous report the team was openly shopping Contreras was not true, but ESPN’s Jesse Rogers noted Chicago has had “a lot” of conversations with other teams regarding Contreras.

Thus, it is certainly possible the Cubs and Angels are in discussions, though Rosenthal clarified “No deal appears close.” Let’s hope it stays that way.

Sure, Los Angeles has a couple intriguing prospects the Cubs might desire.

Outfielder Jordyn Adams made it all the way to High-A ball in 2019, and would give Chicago’s pipeline more depth behind Brennen Davis and Cole Roederer. He has already displayed excellent discipline for a youngster and can absolutely fly, with a max run grade of “80” according to MLB.com.

Jeremiah Jackson clubbed 23 homers in the Pioneer League, and could be an asset up the middle. Outfielder Brandon Marsh would be ideal, but teams are thus far showing little willingness to part with No. 1 guys.

But the Cubs desperately need to maximize their return on Contreras if they do trade him, starting with quality pitching depth.

Chicago might otherwise have liked to pry someone such as Ryan Weathers from the San Diego Padres as part of the Yu Darvish trade. Of course, as we now know,  Darvish’s age, salary and injury history (paired with mileage) all factored into the Cubs grabbing four high-risk, high-reward prospects. None of them were pitchers.

The last part is important. Adbert Alzolay could be a rotation fixture next year, and Brailyn Marquez might soon follow suit depending on his progression in 2021. Those are Chicago’s top two arms, and there is not a lot of depth in the system after that.

Los Angeles is another franchise starved for pitching, both at the big-league level and in their minor league system. Not only do the Halos not have a ton of arms to pique the Cubs’ interest, but also are unlikely to part with those guys.

Moving Contreras would present the Cubs with a vital opportunity to add arm talent. He is young, affordable and very much in demand as one of the best catchers in the game. Hoyer cannot settle in this case, he must sell high and attempt to stack pitching.

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Los Angeles simply presents very little upside, in this regard. The Cubs can likely do better. If not, they can hold a sell-off if they are not in contention at the deadline, when Contreras’ value will likely still be fairly high.