Chicago Cubs News: Willson Contreras declines qualifying offer
The Chicago Cubs and National League All-Star catcher Willson Contreras are set to part ways after news broke on Tuesday afternoon that the Cubs had extended a qualifying offer to Contreras and the offer was declined by Contreras.
Contreras' future with the Cubs was put in question for the duration of the 2022 Major League Baseball regular season and there was an overwhelming expectation that the catcher would be moved at the trade deadline.
The Cubs did have a trade finalized with Houston Astros in which Contreras would have been dealt to the eventual World Series champions for starting pitcher Jose Urquidy but the deal was eventually nixed by Astros' manager Dusty Baker.
Contreras finished the season with the Cubs but New York Post baseball insider Jon Heyman confirmed the decision on the catcher's future with the team on Tuesday.
It will be interesting to see how Contreras' market develops once free agency begins in earnest on Thursday afternoon. Part of the reason why the Cubs wound up having difficulty in attempting to trade Contreras at the deadline was due to the interested teams valuing the National League All-Star more as a designated hitter as opposed to a catcher.
Given how Contreras' value may have been suppressed, there was speculation that he may accept the Cubs' qualifying offer with the goal of rebuilding his value as a two-way catcher in 2023. Instead, Contreras, for the first time in his career, will be playing for an organization other than the Cubs. Meanwhile, the Cubs will net a draft pick from the team that signs Contreras.
Willson Contreras' time with the Chicago Cubs has come to an end.
Where do the Cubs go next at the catcher position?
There is no question that catcher is going to be a position of need for the Cubs this offseason. Entering 2023, the Cubs currently have two catchers on their active roster in veteran Yan Gomes and 29-year old PJ Higgins.
Gomes has proven to be a valuable addition as his work with the Cubs' pitching staff last season was highly praised. Higgins likely will be an up-and-down candidate with the Cubs in 2023 but proved to be versatile last season as he saw playing time at third base and first base.
Cubs' catching prospect Miguel Amaya suffered a fractured ankle towards the end of the 2023 season with the Cubs' double-A affiliate and that thwarted the plan for him to return to catching duties in the Arizona Fall League.
Expect the Cubs to target a defensive-minded catcher this offseason with the goal of pairing him with Gomes in 2023 as the team has clearly identified game management as the priority for the catching position.