Cubs: Willson Contreras says free agency could be ‘dream come true’

(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Heading into his final year of control, Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras knows there’s a decent chance he could finish the 2022 season with a different team. After all, he watched Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo all get moved at last year’s trade deadline – so he’s no stranger to what could go down this summer.

After arriving at camp this weekend, Contreras talked with members of the media and confirmed that, to this point, he has had no extension talks with the organization. We heard as much last fall, prior to the lockout, and it’s likely those conversations could get started as the front office and the two-time All-Star exchange arbitration figures in the coming weeks.

He also noted that he’s open to contract talks with the Cubs, but would prefer those discussions not carry into the regular season – a stance many players take across the league. If they can’t hammer out a deal before Opening Day, it feels like a virtual certainty Contreras will get traded by the trade deadline. Letting him walk at season’s end just isn’t a logical course of action.

Of course, the current qualifying offer system is up in the air and is tied to MLB and MLBPA discussions over a proposed international draft. A decision on that matter is set for July 25 – which could leave the Cubs just days to pull off a trade if they are, indeed, unable to get a draft pick for Contreras if he declines a QO, which he certainly would.

Cubs: Willson Contreras says free agency would be ‘a dream coming true’

When asked about that possibility – hitting free agency for the first time in his career – Contreras had this to say.

Last season, the Venezuelan-born backstop put up a 109 OPS+ and 4.1 bWAR across 128 contests. With the addition of veteran Yan Gomes early this offseason, the Cubs hope they have a true backup behind Contreras, allowing him to get regular days off or see more action out of the DH spot. Keeping him fresh has been a major issue for Chicago in recent years.

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We’ve barely scratched the surface on the free agent or trade front since the lockout ends. A preseason trade of Contreras doesn’t seem all that likely to me (if for no other reason than the truncated timeline to pull off such a move) – so expect him to enter the regular season under lame duck status, surrounded by constant questions about the future.