Signed as an international free agent with the Chicago Cubs in 2009, Willson Contreras made his Major League Baseball debut in 2016. In the seven years that he has suited up for the Cubbies, the catcher from Puerto Cabello, Venezuela has helped the team to a World Series championship and has been named an All-Star three times. After signing a $9.6 million dollar deal to remain in Chicago for the 2022 season, the question everyone is asking is, is Willson Contreras leaving the Chicago Cubs? And if so, where will he end up?
This season the Cubs finished 74-88, third best in the National League Central, nineteen games behind the St. Louis Cardinals, and thirty-seven games behind the league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. With only a Wild Card berth during the Covid shortened season, the Cubs have missed the playoffs three of the past four years and have failed to post a winning record both this season and last. Of course in the sports world, especially baseball, these kinds of numbers mean a salary dump and rebuild of the team with a focus on youth.
As to why the Cubs’ front office didn’t move their All-Star catcher at the trade deadline is still unknown, though most believe that it was because they wanted too much in return for a player who would become a free agent at the end of the season. Sure the Cubs will get a draft pick when Contreras signs with his potential new club, but maybe, just maybe, the emotional catcher who was seen with tears in his eyes at the end of his final regular season home game will re-sign with the only MLB team he has played for.
Willson Contreras will be answering your questions ahead of #MLBatFieldofDreams!
Drop your questions now using #MLBLive!
— MLB (@MLB) August 10, 2022
Who Wants Him?
With his talent and experience, there were at least a dozen suitors knocking at the Cubs’ door during the trade deadline, many of which will likely still be interested in acquiring the catcher during the offseason.
If this is truly it, thank you for everything Willson Contreras. pic.twitter.com/bzj9DtVT2J
— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) October 2, 2022
St. Louis Cardinals
Recent reports of Contreras reaching out to former Cubs teammate, now Cardinals pitcher Jose Quintana have made their way onto social media, causing some concern that the two might reunite with the Cubs Central Division rival. When you add in the fact that the Cards are in need of a catcher due to Yadier Molina retiring, the signing of Contreras is a natural fit.
Another team that expressed their interest in Contreras during the trade deadline was the Astros. After failing to trade for Contreras, the Astros picked up a rental in Christian Vazquez, who is unlikely to return next season. With only Martin Maldonado behind the plate for one more year, the team could use a player who provides far more than a batting line of .186/.248/.352 with just 45 RBI and 15 home runs.
Boston Red Sox
After trading Vazquez at the deadline, the Red Sox, who finished last in the American League East are looking to reload for 2023. Aside from the abbreviated 2020 season, this was the first time since 2015 that the Red Sox finished with a losing record, something that does not sit well in Beantown.
While there are a few options that the Sox can explore to bring in as their starting catcher, including a returning Vazquez or throwing some money at the Oakland Athletics free agent neither hold the All-Star status that Contreras has.
Willson Contreras just posted this on Instagram:
“To the best fan base in baseball thank you for all your support day in and day out you make Wrigley Field special ❤️” pic.twitter.com/B8o41QCyji
— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) October 6, 2022
Could He Stay?
Nothing in sports is ever guaranteed and despite the emotional end to the 2022 season, there is still a chance that the Cubs and Contreras could come to terms on a new contract. It just doesn’t make sense that the Cubs, despite not getting the offers they wanted, would be willing to let a player of Contreras’s capabilities walk for a single draft pick. As one of the best offensive and defensive players at his position, the thirty-year-old Contreras is a player whom the Cubs can build around, especially if the team is able to sign a couple of big-name free agents like Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Josh Bell or Miguel Sano.
Remove the fact that Chicago dropped a 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Contreras’s last game of the season, one in which he went 2-3 with a home run and a single. If you consider the Cubs second half record of 35-29 and their strong finish to the season winning twelve of their final fifteen games, there is certainly hope that the team can produce a competitive 2023 season, but in order to do so, the front office may have to set aside their plans for a full rebuild, extend a $19 million qualifying offer and do their best to hold on to their All-Star talent.
Clearly the “Bleacher Bums” and Cubbies fans appreciate what Contreras brings to the team, but ultimately the final decision comes down to one last conversation between GM Carter Hawkins, Contreras, and his agent. “For me, it’s more like a feeling that I’m wanted. I’m going to be somewhere that I’m wanted and where I feel they’re going to appreciate what I do on the field and off the field. A place that appreciates what I bring to the clubhouse and what I can do.”
Willson Contreras and Ian Happ are staying put with the Cubbies 🤝 pic.twitter.com/zCrRfAIwTP
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) August 2, 2022
Credits on Featured Image: Minda Haas Kuhlmann on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons