When the Cubs failed to trade Willson Contreras ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline, they were almost universally criticized given the complete lack of extension talks between the team and the three-time All-Star backstop.
Jed Hoyer said that deals for Contreras and fellow All-Star Ian Happ never materialized, at least not in a way that made the organization felt it was getting a fair return. But according to a report from over the weekend, courtesy of Jeff Passan, the Cubs did indeed have a trade partner in place for Contreras - and it was none other than the now-World Series champion Houston Astros.
Cubs would have traded Willson Contreras to the Astros
The deal was very straightforward: Contreras would spend the rest of the year in Houston and, in exchange, Chicago would acquire right-handed starting pitcher Jose Urquidy, who has three years of team control remaining past 2022. As we all know, that deal never came to fruition. Why? None other than current Astros and former Cubs manager Dusty Baker.
"Much as I like Willson Contreras, Urquidy was one of our best pitchers then. I needed a guy that wasn't going to complain about not playing every day. And this is his [free agent] year. See, that's tough. When you trade for a player in his [free agent] year. Everybody's about numbers and stuff, and I can't blame them, no doubt. But that's not what we needed. "- Dusty Baker
The plan, at least as far as we can tell, would be for Contreras to primarily serve as the team's DH, allowing Martin Maldonado to handle duties behind the plate, given he's consistently received higher marks defensively than the longtime Cubs backstop and is a favorite receiver of Astros pitchers. Clearly, not adding a big bat at the deadline did little to slow Houston down, as they largely cruised to their second World Series title in the last six seasons. (Not to mention, they shored things up behind the dish by trading for Christian Vazquez at the deadline).
Now, Contreras is officially a free agent. Chicago is expected to put forth a qualifying offer, but it's hard to see him accepting it, especially after the emotional roller coaster of the last year-plus. Then again, a guy who doesn't grade out well with the glove who's tied to draft pick compensation could see a market that's not quite as well to his liking as he hopes, too.
This just adds another wrinkle in the dramatic on-again, off-again trade rumors that surrounded Contreras over the last year or his time on the North Side. And, wouldn't you know it, Baker continues to impact the team he once managed - even two decades later.