Cubs: The Astros are a terrible trade match for Willson Contreras
The Chicago Cubs are riding a season-best six-game winning streak, yet Tuesday’s win felt anything but good as ‘Go Cubs, Go’ echoed throughout Wrigleyville and the ‘W’ flag was raised high above the center field scoreboard.
It almost certainly marked Willson Contreras’ last home game with the team and, if recent reports are to be believed, the same may be true for All-Star outfielder Ian Happ, as well. Both have been mentioned in trade rumors for some time now and, with just a week until the trade deadline, things are really heating up on that front.
Happ’s list of potential suitors is sizable – while Contreras’ market seems to be much narrower. According to the latest reports, both the New York Mets and Houston Astros have been specifically tied to the three-time All-Star catcher, although given the Astros’ 28th-ranked farm system entering 2022, according to Baseball America.
You can read more about the rumors connecting the longtime Chicago backstop to the Mets here. I’m here to tell you why the Astros aren’t the team the Cubs should trade Contreras to. (Hell, if it were up to me, they wouldn’t trade him at all – and would extend him instead, but that’s a decision I don’t get to make).
Cubs: A once-mighty Astros farm system is no longer what it once was
The Astros have been consistently good for awhile now. Like, what we’d hoped the Cubs might have been six years ago good. Here’s how they’ve fared since 2017:
- 2017: 101-61; 1st place – AL West; won World Series*
- 2018: 103-59; 1st place – AL West; lost in ALCS
- 2019: 107-55; 1st place – AL West; lost in World Series
- 2020: 29-31; 2nd place – AL West; lost in ALCS
- 2021: 95-67; 1st place – AL West; lost in World Series
At a minimum, Houston has advanced to the League Championship Series in each of the previous five seasons. But it’s come at a cost. A farm system that ranked fourth, according to Baseball America back in 2017 now bests just two teams: the Angels and White Sox. Those prospects have continuously cycled up to the big leagues and the replenishing just hasn’t gone to plan.
Prior to the season, Jeremy Pena was one of two Top 100 Astros prospects, but with him up with Houston now as the heir apparent to Carlos Correa, that leaves just catcher Korey Lee among the league’s best prospects. BA has him pegged at 70, while MLB Pipeline doesn’t even mention him in its rankings – instead tapping right-hander Hunter Brown at number 82.
All this to say Houstons’ system is light – very light – and if the Cubs want any chance of turning the corner quickly in this rebuild, they need to get some top-notch returns in any sort of Happ and Contreras trades.
Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins would be much better served looking elsewhere for a partner in a Contreras trade. The Mets have four MLB Pipeline top 100 prospects, San Francisco has five and Tampa Bay has five (and just lost Mike Zunino for the remainder of the year). There was a time where I’d have loved for the Cubs to pillage the Astros’ prospects – but that time has come and gone.