Chicago Cubs Rumors: Fans will hate latest MLB Insider prediction

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

Free agent catcher Willson Contreras is widely expected to decline the $19.65MM qualifying offer that was extended to him by the Chicago Cubs before the deadline for the decision at 3 pm CT this afternoon and the move will formally put a close to the final chapter of Contreras' time with the Cubs' organization.

Contreras is near the top of the list of available free-agent catchers this offseason and teams such as the Houston Astros have already emerged as options to sign the 2022 National League All-Star team's starting catcher. The Astros nearly traded for Contreras at the trade deadline last season but now have the ability to land the catcher without subtracting from their Major League roster.

Contreras will have no shortage of interested teams in his services for the 2023 season and beyond with one of those teams being a division-rival of the Cubs. The St. Louis Cardinals, for the first time in a long time, have a question mark at the catching position as they are looking to replace future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina. Molina retired after the season and there has been a sense that the Cardinals may view Conteras as a potential replacement.

Willson Contreras could be headed to a hated National League Central rival.

That could be the reason why NBC Sports Chicago's Major League Baseball insider Gordon Wittenmyer predicted that Contreras will sign with the Cardinals this offseason.

"One thing’s for sure: An emotional player who has admired Molina throughout his career and felt hurt by the Cubs’ kick-him-to-the-curb treatment this year would be the most motivated free agent the Cardinals could find in the marketplace. "

NBC Sports Chicago

Contreras donning a Cardinals uniform while batting against the Cubs at Wrigley Field would undoubtedly be a painful watch for Cubs fans. For the Cardinals, the move could serve as a sense of payback from when the Cubs signed former Cardinals legend Jim Edmonds during the 2008 season. There is no doubt that Edmonds on the Cubs in 2008 ignited a spark in the rivalry between the Cubs and Cardinals and Contreras moving to St. Louis would have a very similar impact in the seasons ahead.

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The best-case scenario for the Cubs would be for Contreras to land with an American League team such as the Astros. Contreras on the Cardinals would signal a significant roadblock for the Cubs and their efforts to contend in the National League Central division in 2023.