Cubs Rumors: 3 early suitors for Willson Contreras in free agency

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages
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To the surprise of no one, the Cubs reportedly made three-time All-Star Willson Contreras a qualifying offer this week, which he declined, setting him up for his first foray into free agency this winter.

This felt like a foregone conclusion since Jed Hoyer shocked everyone and held onto Contreras at the trade deadline. Of course, in recent days, we learned that at least one potential deal - one that would have sent Contreras to Houston in exchange for right-hander Jose Urquidy - fell through at the last minute, so perhaps it wasn't exactly the front office's plan to go this route.

Regardless, it feels like Contreras' time on the North Side has come to a close - and now, as the clear top backstop available on the free agent market, we can take a look at some early suitors for the hard-hitting catcher.

Cubs Rumors: 3 early Willson Contreras suitors: #3 - Houston Astros

Kicking things off, we have that very Astros team. Hot off their World Series championship, Houston already has their sights re-focused on Contreras. They've got veteran Martin Maldonado under contract for next season and the team's pitching staff loves throwing to him, but pairing him with Contreras, who can also DH regularly, could boost the Astros' chances of returning to the Fall Classic in 2023.

The Astros are already in a good position to return to the postseason next year, but a Contreras signing could really shore up the offense and give them a proven commodity at the designated hitter spot. If the bat plays like it has in Chicago, you could even see more of an even split in playing time between the two - but it's clear that, regardless of how he's in the lineup, Contreras could add some thump to an already powerful Astros lineup.