When, back in July, I penned a piece thinking through a scenario where the Cardinals traded for Cubs All-Star catcher Willson Contreras ahead of the deadline, looking to shore things up behind the dish with Yadier Molina injured, I hadn’t seriously thought about that very same setup taking place at season’s end.
But according to David Kaplan, that’s something we very much need to consider as the 2022 regular season winds down and Contreras nears free agency for the first time on the heels of the best year of his career.
"“(Willson Contreras) obviously has the respect of a lot of his teammates, he’s a three-time All-Star, he’s got the best arm in the National League, and I’ve already heard from people connected around the Cardinals that I know very well that they absolutely are going to be in play on Willson Contreras.”"
I mean, it sucks, but it makes a whole lot of sense for a team that hasn’t had a real vacancy behind the dish in two decades. At the end of the year, 10-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glover Yadier Molina is hanging up his spikes. If you’re St. Louis, which has no real in-house heir, who better to replace the fan favorite than Contreras, one of the best offensive catchers in the league?
Not only does it dramatically improve your standing at the position (where otherwise, you’re either handing things to Andrew Knizner (career 68 OPS+ to go along with poor receiving and framing metrics) or a free agent class headlined, outside of Contreras, by a group that lacks the same star power as the longtime Chicago backstop.
Cubs fans: don’t panic just yet when thinking about this possibility
Now, don’t go burning your Contreras jersey just yet. As Brett over at Bleacher Nation rightly points out, there are a lot of reasons to at least spritz this notion with some cold water – you should definitely check out that piece for more.
Something Brett doesn’t touch on that immediately came to mind for me personally was whether or not the Dexter Fowler era in St. Louis would wind up impacting Contreras’ decision in any way should it come down to it. Remember – Fowler was the table setter for the Cubs on their 2016 World Series-winning club, left for the Cardinals on a five-year deal that very offseason and, well, it’s safe to say it didn’t go well for anybody involved.
Fowler mustered just a .233/.334/.408 line in 389 games with the Redbirds before Jon Mozeliak sent him packing in February of last year. I’m sure I’m biased, but I just don’t see someone like Contreras, a very animated, emotional player, fitting well in St. Louis. After all, we know there’s no fun allowed there anyway and it seems safe to assume he’d just eventually wind up bored.