Cubs “can’t be ruled out” as long-term option for Willson Contreras

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

As spring training wound down, all signs seemed to point to us be nearing the end of the road when it comes to two-time All-Star catcher Willson Contreras and his time as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

That’s not to say a trade was imminent – the lockout really put a damper on those efforts – but with no substantive extension talks taking place and Contreras saying hitting free agency could be like ‘a dream come true,’ the writing appeared to be on the wall. But a footnote in the latest from The Athletic‘s Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma (subscription required) may offer a glimmer of hope.

The piece is all about the new clubhouse dynamic that’s developing – and has been developing – since the team jettisoned almost the entire core last July. It’s led to changes in how David Ross interacts with players, the scheduling and structure of the team’s day-to-day and much, much more.

When talking about Jed Hoyer’s offseason moves, they point out that on-field production and extracting maximum value seemed to be prioritized over adding leadership elements to the clubhouse mix – but then quickly add that because Contreras’ is such a ‘unique’ player, Chicago could yet wind up being a long-term option for him.

That’s music to my ears, personally. I’m not about overextending for any old player, but given the value Contreras brings – both at the dish and behind it – and the organization’s lack of near big league-ready catching depth (outside of Yan Gomes, who turns 35 this summer), a long-term extension makes a lot of sense for everyone involved.

Contreras is off to a slow start, but despite what you might read on Twitter, four games into a 162-game season isn’t a time to panic. He’s still one of the best catchers in the National League and the introduction of the designated hitter should allow Ross to avoid him getting worn down, especially late in the season, something that’s been a regular issue in recent years.

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Again, Sharma and Mooney aren’t proclaiming an imminent Contreras extension from the rooftops across from Wrigley or anything of the sort. But they’re also not slamming the door on the idea that maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance he winds up coming back to the Cubs long-term in free agency.