Wilson Contreras is the best free-agent catcher available. He is a three-time All-Star and World Series Champion. In seven seasons with the Cubs, he has hit 117 home runs, 365 RBIs, and accumulated a .459 slugging percentage.
His time with the Cubs is over. But maybe not his time in Chicago. When asked about a sleeper team that Wilson Contreras would fit in, Bill Ripken said the team across town should consider acquiring his services.
“I think a pretty good spot for him is to stay in the same city that he’s at but just not the same team. So let’s go to the White Sox, and let’s see what happens.
“Look, the White Sox have had some issues behind the plate. Grandal, I think, played what, 90 games? Something like that. I think this dude could fit into a lineup in Chicago, and he can make them serious contenders in the Central. I think that there kind of contenders anyway, but this dude’s age is good enough, durable, he goes out there and plays. And there’s nothing wrong with these numbers when you’re talking about some statistics to throw out there that says, ‘you know what, he’s better than what we got.’ I think that would be a pretty good move.”
The numbers Ripken referred to were Contreras’ rankings amongst MLB catchers in 2022. The 30-year-old’s 128 OPS tied for third-best among catchers, while his .349 on-base percentage was fourth-best. He also was tied for fourth in home runs (22) and WAR (3.9), while his .466 slugging percentage placed him fifth.
This would be a welcome addition to the White Sox offense. Their catchers combined for a -2.4 WAR, the 27th worst in the MLB, behind only the Reds, Astros, and Angels.
Their .315 slugging percentage as a unit ranked 25th in the MLB. No White Sox catcher hit more than five home runs. To make matters worse, the highest-paid player in franchise history was one of the culprits.
Contreras is coming off one of the best offensive seasons of his career. Meanwhile, Yasmani Grandal is coming off his worse. In 387 at-bats, Grandal hit just five home runs and drove in 27. He slashed .202/.301/.269 with a .570 OPS. His walk rate still ranked in the top nine percent of the MLB, but it dropped 11.2 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old barrel percentage was the lowest of his career at 4.8 percent.
The White Sox are banking that banning the shift and some offseason adjustments will get Grandal to return to form. They have invested too much money to move off of him, so having an insurance option as a backup is a good idea. The White Sox contention window is rapidly closing, and we saw what a great backup catcher could do for the team when James McCann was on the roster in 2020.
One thing Contreras will not elevate is the White Sox defense. No team had more passed balls than the White Sox with 15. They also ranked 20th amongst catchers in performance by fielding runs with a -3 mark. Contreras is a poor defensive catcher better suited to be a designated hitter at this point in his career. However, in a backup role, the White Sox could overcome the defensive woes if he hits 20-plus home runs.
Unfortunately for White Sox fans, there is lots of air time to fill during the offseason on MLB Network. While Wilson Contreras makes sense on the South Side, it probably won’t happen.
The Houston Astros have their sights set on the three-time All-Star, which means the White Sox will have to win a bidding war. The reality is the White Sox are not known for overpaying free agents.