The Chicago Cubs are pretty terrible this year, holding the fifth-worst record in baseball entering Saturday afternoon’s game in St. Louis. Willson Contreras, meanwhile, is easily the best player left on the roster and trading him will only make matters worse.
The two-time All-Star has the second-best batting average amongst starting catchers in baseball, leads his counterparts in home runs and slugging percentage and is tied for the most base hits. Why any team would trade someone, especially a catcher, with those stats is mind-boggling.
But to see the bright side in a potential Contreras trade, we need to look back to the blockbuster that shook things up at the deadline in 2016. Chicago traded top prospect Gleyber Torres and their number three overall prospect, Billy McKinney, as well as a veteran relief pitcher, Adam Warren, to the New York Yankees for closer Aroldis Chapman. Without Chapman, the Cubs would not have won the World Series and ended a 108-year championship drought.
Following the 2016 season, Chapman, a free agent, went back to the Yankees, signing a five-year deal to return to the Bronx. The Yankees ended up getting their current starting second baseman in Torres for what turned out to be a few months of their closer. Even though McKinney did not make a big impact for the Yankees, they were able to trade him in the deal that netted J.A. Happ.
The point of all of this is simple. If the Cubs really want Contreras to stay, which they should, then they follow the same path taken by the Yankees back in 2016. Trade Contreras for as much as you can get now, then try to sign him in the offseason. The fact the Yankees were able to get a pair of organizational top-5 prospects for Chapman, the best closer in the game at that time, makes you wonder what the Cubs could get for the number 1 catcher in baseball.
There are at least five teams that desperately need help at the catcher position and are postseason contenders. These teams are the Astros, Giants, Guardians, Mets and Yankees.
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If Jed Hoyer can tap into these farm systems in a Contreras trade and bring him back via free agency, that’s an obvious win-win. If not, you’re still coming away with even more talent to add to the system, as opposed simply watching him walk at season’s end.