Another day and another team asking about Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.
It’s really starting to feel like the walls are closing in. This weekend, we heard trade rumors swirling around both Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras. Now, Craig Mish of SportsGrid reports the Miami Marlins are in pursuit of the Chicago Cubs All-Star backstop, though he noted the situation is “fluid.”
Last week I wrote about the Los Angeles Angels’ reported interest in Contreras, and why the Halos were hardly the most beneficial trade partner due to their shortage of arm talent. But the Marlins present a much different scenario.
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Miami has a wealth of young pitching in its pipeline, something the Cubs themselves desperately need after watching their average rotation age spike over the course of the last couple years. Unlike the Angels, some of their arms could be more expendable if they feel Contreras is a cornerstone player for a future playoff contender.
Now, the Marlins are obviously not going to give up the likes of Sixto Sanchez or Sandy Alcantara. Additionally, Max Meyer – the team’s 2020 first-round pick – is almost certainly off the table, as Meyer projects as an ace given his lively fastball, wipeout slider and plus-potential changeup. But there are other arms to choose from.
Right-hander Edward Cabrera is another guy with a live arm. Cabrera routinely sits in the mid- to high-90s with his fastball, and he added sharper horizontal break to the slider in 2019.
The 22-year-old had a 2.02 ERA at High-A that season, striking out 73 opponents and boasting a staggering .183 opponents batting average, per MLB.com. Cabrera also had success at Double-A, posting a 2.56 ERA in eight starts and striking out 43 in 38 2/3 innings. He is someone who could rapidly ascend to the majors and reset Chicago’s rotation.
Left-hander Braxton Garrett is another guy the Cubs could pursue. He does not possess quite as lively of a fastball in terms of consistent velocity, but he commands it well and sets it up with a steady curveball.
Should the Cubs still seek positional talent, they could try to sell high on Contreras in an effort to acquire left-handed outfielder J.J. Bleday, who was a prolific slugger at Vanderbilt. Jesus Sanchez struggled in his brief big-league showing last season, but still projects well as a bit of a toolsy outfielder.
It is also possible president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer tries to pry Jorge Alfaro away from Miami in the hopes the 27-year-old can bounce back with a change in scenery.
Of course, just because the Marlins have more assets to trade does not mean a deal gets done.
For starters, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported money could be an issue for Miami after they picked up Starling Marte’s option.
Perhaps the Cubs would be willing to kick in some cash to sweeten the prospect offer, but that remains to be seen.
But again, the most important element to all this is Contreras’ value to the Cubs. Hoyer has openly stated multiple times he hopes to contend in 2020. It would seem even more unlikely for Chicago to make a playoff run should it deal Contreras after already trading away Yu Darvish.
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One can only keep an eye toward the future for so long before losing track of the present. However, if the Cubs do decide to move Contreras, they could probably do worse than partnering with the Marlins on a deal.