Among the multitude of areas that require attention this offseason is attempting to work out a long-term extension with Contreras, who will otherwise go through arbitration one final time before hitting free agency next year.
After earning $6.65 million this year, Contreras will likely get a raise next year. Though it was a down year for him at the plate considering his career batting average is .259 and he managed to slash just .237/.340/.438 with 21 homers and 57 RBI, Contreras’ value behind the plate remains high.
Since his call-up in 2016, Contreras has earned a pair of All-Star honors and is just the first Cubs catcher to earn the honors since Geovany Soto back in 2008. Although this year was a ‘down’ year for him at the dish, there’s no reason to think he can’t bounce back next season and get closer to his career .259/.349/.458 line.
The Chicago catcher will be a major piece to the offseason puzzle this winter. Teams will definitely come calling this winter and Jed Hoyer will have to listen to offers, but considering Contreras is entering the last year of his deal, the return for him after consecutive down years at the plate surely would not be what it was a year ago. Therefore, the Cubs need to realize the value they have in Contreras and lock him up long-term.
Chicago Cubs: Willson Contreras is the only path forward behind the plate
With just 27 home runs in 2022, Contreras will surpass Jody Davis in all-time home runs by a Cubs Catcher in over 100 fewer career games. Davis blasted 122 long balls with the Cubs over eight seasons in 990 games played with the Cubs while Contreras currently sits with 95 career homers in 621 games. Hypothetically, if Contreras has the opportunity to finish out his career as a Cub and continues at the pace he is on, in roughly eight seasons he can surpass Gaby Hartnett for #1 on the list.
Defensively, it’s hard to find a catcher better than Contreras. A little over a year ago, he was even ranked as the MLB’s best defensive catcher due to his wild pickoff attempts and cannon of an arm. He’s also improved his pitch framing – once considered a weak spot in his game.
As the only catcher in Cubs franchise history to make back-to-back All-Star appearances since Gaby Hartnett in 1936 and 1937, Contreras has more than proven the caliber of player he his. The Cubs must lock him up before trading him for peanuts at next year’s trade deadline. Players like him do not come around often – and the alternatives out there are bleak, to say the least.