Sunday, August 14, 2022

Keeping Contreras: Why The Cubs Should Extend Their All-Star Catcher


Making The Argument To Resign Willson Contreras

Have you checked the standings lately? After going 6-4 in their last ten games and winning their 4th consecutive series, just like that, the Cubs are in 3rd place! Goodbye Pittsburgh. See you in the rear view mirror, Cincinnati! That’s the good news. Now to the bad news, the northsiders still sit 15 games below 500. They’re 12 games back in the Central Division and ten games back in the National League Wild Card race. Barring an epic run, the Cubs won’t be going to the postseason in 2022.

The Cubs Will Be Sellers At The Trade Deadline

Who stays and who goes is still up for debate. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is the hottest name that could move at the trade deadline. But could he resign with the Cubs, the franchise that signed him out of Venezuela and that he won a World Series with in 2016? That likely depends on if Contreras will take a hometown discount with the Cubs. Or will he go the way of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant before him, refusing deals that ultimately sent the 2016 World Series winners out of town just last year.

Contreras Is The Best Offensive Catcher In Baseball

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is arguably having his best season as a pro. He leads all major league catchers in runs, home runs, at-bats (health is wealth), and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). Contreras’ OPS ranks 14th in all of baseball, tied with Nolan Arrenado of the Cardinals and just ahead of Mookie Betts on the Dodgers. Contreras ranks second among catchers in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. The 2016 World Series winner also ranks second among all catchers in wins-above-replacement (WAR) at 2.9 (Toronto’s Alejandro Kirk is first at 3.0). His offensive WAR of 18.5 is nearly five points higher than the second-best catcher, per Fan Graphs. The bottom line is Contreras has been the best offensive catcher in major league baseball this season.

The Designated Hitter In The National League Extends Contreras’ Prime

Catching is a tough business. Spring training, plus the grind of a 162-game regular season and hopefully, the postseason, takes a toll on backstops. Few have had productive careers into their mid-30s. The ones that have been are in the Hall of Fame, including Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza, and future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina.  But everything changed this year when the National League adding the designated hitter full-time. The Cubs signed veteran catcher Yan Gomes to a 2-year / $12M contract with the idea of saving Contreras’ legs. Instead of wearing down their All-Star catcher behind the plate every day or being forced to remove their best bat from the lineup, Contreras has started 45 games at catcher and 25 at DH. The result: the Cubs have the best offensive catcher in the game and one of the most valuable hitters in the league.

Contreras Is The Cubs’ Leader

When you think of the face of the Chicago Cubs, who do you think of? Maybe Kyle Hendricks. Ian Happ? Not exactly. It’s Contreras. He’s been the heart and soul of the Cubs ever since Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez left town. The fight for the alpha dog of the Cubs started last year when Rizzo and Contreras got into it in the dugout. Alleged, Contreras didn’t appreciate Rizzo’s lack of hustle on the base paths.

Contreras has provided energy for the Cubs ever since his call-up in the middle of 2016. Now in his 8th major league season, Contreras is the unquestioned leader of the Cubs, but hustle and heart remain.

Bridging The Cubs Generations

Willson Contreras didn’t have a great 2016 World Series. He hit .105 with two hits and one RBI in seven games. However, he’s a World Series Champion. His journey from top prospect to complimentary player to team leader, Contreras’ rise resembles that of a future Hall of Famer, one still playing today: Yadi Molina. Molina broke into the bigs in 2004, won his first World Series in 2006, then bridged the gap for the Cardinals before their 2011 World Series win. The fact that Molina is still playing today in his 19th season should be a reminder to Cubs management that generational players can perform into their 30s. Add in the designated hitter, and it begs the question: why can’t Contreras be the Cubs’ Yadier Molina?

The Cost To Extend Contreras

A few weeks ago, Contreras and the Cubs agreed to a 1-yr. / $9.625M contract, avoiding arbitration. That deal made Contreras the 5th highest-paid catcher in major league baseball this year. What would it take to resign him? The highest-paid catcher in the game is Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto. He signed a 5-yr. / $115.5M contract in the 2021 offseason, averaging $23.875M per season.  Contreras is leading catchers in almost every offensive statistical category and ranks a close 2nd in WAR. He has a small injury history but no major surgeries that signal red flags to other teams. He will be one of the most sought-after free agents this offseason, even while looking to match or top Realmuto’s contract. The second-highest-paid catcher, Yasmani Grandal of the White Sox, makes $18.25M annually. It’s a lot of money, but can the Cubs retain their best player on a hometown discount while still making him one of the highest-paid catchers in baseball? Would a 6-yr. / $120M contract do the trick?

The Cubs Should Pay The Man

Trading Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo over 24 hours was the closest thing to a  Greek tragedy that Cubs fans have seen. It’s time for the Cubs to start acting like the big market team that they are. The Marquee TV Network is up and running, creating another revenue source. Selling their best player, the heart and soul of their team, for the second year in a row signals that the Cubs are about profit over product. Contreras is offensively outperforming the top-paid catcher in the game. If he refuses a hometown discount, resigning him to a 4-year, $100 million contract ensures that the Cubs keep their leader behind the plate and in the batter’s box as he waits for the next generation of Cubs to make their World Series push.


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Jul 25, 2022 7:38 pm

Last year I had no problem with tearing down the team. I believe the players that were let go had topped out as we well have seen this year, But to let Contrearas, one of the top catcher’s in both leagues. Not only is he one of the better offensive, but also on defense. Your farm system can’t replace him and he is the heart of the team. You want to be a great GM, find some one to take Heyward. The money you saved last year should have no problem paying one the better catchers in the league- PAY… Read more »

Jul 8, 2022 11:45 am

I could not agree more. Pay him

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