Besides the apparently unstoppable house-cleaning efforts of Jed Hoyer, there are at least four obvious reasons why Willson Contreras will not finish this season as a a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Reason 1: Cubs are getting elite production from the free agent-to-be
Contreras is having a career year. He leads MLB catchers in several key categories, including batting average, slugging and OPS. His recent selection as the starting catcher for the National League All-Star team will only add to his value as the Aug. 2 trade deadline approaches.
Entering Sunday’s matchup against the Phillies, Contreras carries a 136 OPS+ and his .372 on-base percentage would mark a single-season best should he maintain it down the stretch.
Unlike last year, Contreras has an adequate back-up, allowing hm to be well-rested and play at full strength – no doubt contributing to his success this season. That back-up forms the crux of my next point.
Reason 2: In Yan Gomes, the Cubs have a fallback option to turn to
Yan Gomes. Last year the Cubs used Robinson Chironos, Austin Romine, Tony Wolters, P. J. Hiiggins, Jose Lobaton, Erick Castillo, Taylor Gushue and Tyler Payne as back-up catchers, a league record eight in number. In the offseason the Cubs remediated this glaring hole in their roster by signing the journeyman backstop Gomes.
After a solid start at the dish, Gomes has really fallen off offensively (51 OPS+) but his work behind the plate speaks for itself. Pairing Gomes with PJ Higgins following a likely Contreras trade should be solid enough – at least for the season’s final two months.
Reason 3: There’s enough depth to weather the loss – at least short-term
Like I noted above, Gomes has provided solid if uninspired relief for Contreras allowing the three-time All-Star to spend much much of his time as a DH. As an added plus and reason three, Gomes is a strong pitch calling catcher lending a steadying hand to the Cubs young pitching staff.
The aforementioned emergence of Higgins as a viable fallback option only only exacerbates the situation. It would allow the team to use Higgins and Gomes as a catching tandem the rest of the season, further freeing up Contreras to be traded for what seems likely to be a massive haul.
Reason 4: Jed Hoyer seems to be all-in on his blossoming farm system
Finally, it appears Jed Hoyer is bent on totally remaking the Cubs using mostly young players with lots of potential and plenty of years left to continue to play. Offering Contreras for trade will allow him to add some blue chip prospects to a system that’s already soaring up rankings boards.