Ranking Cubs’ Willson Contreras’ Potential Landing Spots Amid Trade Rumors | Bleacher Report

0 out of 6

    Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

    As of now, you’ll find Willson Contreras behind the plate for the Chicago Cubs and also at the #1 All-Star vote among National League catchers.

    Come on the other side of Major League Baseball’s August 2 trade deadline, who knows?

    Contreras has been a regular in trade rumors for a couple of years at this point, but the chances of the Cubs actually treating him this time around are higher than ever. With their 25-43 record, they’re not exactly making the most of his final season before free agency.

    Not that Contreras is to blame. Already a two-time All-Star and World Series Champion, he’s had the best season of his career. He has more plate appearances than any other catcher and he also leads his peers with a .907 OPS and 2.9 rWAR.

    In the meantime, where Contreras might end up we can only speculate about his admirers and rank them based on how badly they need him and how well positioned they are as trading partners with the Cubs.

1 out of 6

    Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images

    10. Angels from Los Angeles

    Record: 33-38 (2nd in AL West)

    WAR catch: 0.3 (T-17th)

    With 25 losses in their last 34 games, the Angels need to get back into the American League playoffs before they can consider a purchase at the close. If they can, Contreras would be an upgrade over Max Stassi at catch level and a short-term response to the absence of Anthony Rendon (wrist) in midfield.

    9.Boston Red Sox

    Record: 38-31 (3rd in AL East)

    Catch War: 0 (22nd)

    To be fair, Christian Vazquez is an excellent defender and a capable hitter. The Red Sox still need a consistent hitter who can take pressure off their big three Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez. Contreras is at least well suited for this role.

    8. Tampa Bay Rays

    Record: 37-31 (4th in AL East)

    Capture War: Minus-0.7 (29th)

    Led by Mike Zunino and Francisco Mejia, the Rays get just .516 OPS out of their catchers. Contreras is an obvious savior in that regard, but the pressing question is whether the low-budget Rays would want to cover his $9.6 million salary.

    7. Minnesota Twins

    Record: 38-31 (T-st in AL Central)

    WAR catch: 0.8 (T-12th)

    The Twins already have a dangerous offensive catcher in Gary Sanchez, but it’s telling he’ll get hit better if worked out of the designated hitter spot. With him there and Contreras behind the bowl, an already scary lineup would look that much scarier.

    6. San Diego Padres

    Record: 43-27 (T-1 in NL West)

    Capture War: 1.4 (8th)

    While catching isn’t a huge problem in San Diego, AJ Preller isn’t one to shy away from big signings. Adding Contreras as a power hitter the offense desperately needs would fit the bill and certainly make the possibility of the team’s first NL West title since 2006 that much more real.

2 out of 6

    David Berding/Getty Images

    Recording: 33-33 (3rd at AL Central)

    catch war: 0.1 (T-19.)

    If the Chicago White Sox make a move for a hitter before the deadline, arguably other positions should take precedence over the catcher. They are in the bottom third of the league for rWAR at second base, third base, right field and designated hitter.

    Also in the bottom third of the league, however, is the .588 OPS the White Sox receive from their catchers. This speaks, among other things, for what a disappointing year Yasmani Grandal has had.

    Grandal was one of Chicago’s leading hitters in 2021, hitting .939 OPS and 23 homers in 93 games. He had just a .531 in his first 50 games this season before being placed on the injury list with back spasms.

    That’s reason enough for the White Sox to keep an eye on Contreras, and they wouldn’t necessarily have to take it off even if Grandal rediscovers his form upon his return from the IL. After a trade, he and Contreras could always work in a timeshare at Catcher and DH.

    Rather, the cost of acquiring Contreras could prevent him from moving from the North Side to the South Side. There are no Tier 1 prospects in the White Sox’s farm system at rank 26, so they are at a disadvantage when entering the bidding war for Contreras.

3 out of 6

    G Fiume/Getty Images

    Recording: 35-28 (T-St in AL Central)

    catch war: Minus-0.1 (T-23)

    As with the Rays, the question is whether the Cleveland Guardians would pick up the remainder of Contreras’ salary in a trade. Maybe even more with them since the Guardians’ payroll at $67.8 million is about $20 million less than the Rays’ spend.

    That being said, however, there is a clear fit for contreras in Cleveland.

    Though Austin Hedges is a gifted defensive catcher, he was never a great hitter and is in the midst of what may be his worst offensive season ever. He only hits .163/.219/.259, so he bears most of the blame for the dismal .501 OPS Cleveland gets from his Fang Corps.

    In a broader sense, the Wardens simply need a right-hander of Contreras’ caliber. The .331 slugging percentage they get from the right side of the plate is the worst in baseball.

    With the Guardians having the No. 3 farming system in the league, there’s no great doubt that they have the prospective capital to strike a deal with the Cubs. And with the club threatening to take first place in AL Central from the Twins, one would hope that the owners would become more willing to invest in this team by the day.

4 out of 6

    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Recording: 45-25 (1st in NL East)

    catch war: Minus-0.2 (25th)

    The New York Mets could have signed JT Realmuto in the 2020-21 offseason, but they chose the bargain option by signing James McCann to a four-year, $40.6 million deal.

    Unfortunately, the deal didn’t pay off immediately in 2021, and it now looks more like a complete bust in 2022. McCann averaged just .521 OPS in 21 games through May 10, when he suffered a fractured hamate bone from which he is still recovering.

    Otherwise, Tomas Nido and Patrick Mazeika were largely in vain with the racket. That goes for the Mets’ overall position, as the .516 OPS they received from their catchers ranks them 26th in the majors.

    Though the Mets already have the highest payroll in baseball at $260.9 million, asking them to spend more doesn’t seem like much to ask. Steve Cohen is the richest owner in baseball, and the team he’s assembled for 2022 is as World Series or bust as it gets.

    Also, Jon Heyman from the New York Post wrote that the Mets “are unlikely to give up prospects” to get Contreras. If that’s true, you’d think they shouldn’t be blowing up an already mediocre farm system for a mere rent.

5 out of 6

    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Recording: 38-29 (3rd in NL West)

    catch war: 0.4 (16th)

    Though many other factors are at play, a drop in production from the catcher position is one of the reasons the San Francisco Giants aren’t as dominant as they are in 2021.

    Thanks in large part to Buster Posey and his .304 average, the Giants capitalized on the fourth-best corps of catches in the majors en route to 107 wins last season. But then Posey withdrew, effectively handing rule to top prospect Joey Bart.

    This was not a smooth transition. Bart hit just .156 with .596 OPS in 36 games with the Giants through June 4, leaving them little choice but to bring him back to the minors.

    With Bart out of the picture, the Giants are relying on Curt Casali and Austin Wynns to shoulder the load at the catcher. That’s not a fitting tandem for a team that would win a second straight NL West title, let alone one that would bring the franchise back to the World Series.

    Scott Harris worked in the Cubs’ front office before signing as the Giants’ general manager in 2019, so he’s intimately familiar with Contreras. If it decides to rejoin the backstop, both the monetary and potential funds are in place to complete a trade.

6 out of 6

    Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Recording: 42-25 (1st in AL West)

    catch war: Minus-1.0 (30th)

    None of the teams we’ve discussed so far will be seriously offended by their catchers in 2022, but the Houston Astros can still look at every one of them with envy.

    At .474, the OPS they get behind the plate is the worst in all of MLB. Not great for any team, but especially not one trying to make their fourth World Series in the last six years.

    It’s only fair to say that this is more credit to Jason Castro than Martin Maldonado. The latter’s .516 OPS looks pretty good compared to the former’s .352 OPS. Maldonado is also valuable defensively, especially as a threat to potential base stealers.

    But is it enough to stay with him? Not really. Maldonado’s offense only compares favorably to Castro, and his pop times don’t make up for otherwise declining defensive skills. His framing is past its prime and even passing balls were an issue in 2022.

    The catch should be that Houston’s farming system ranks as the worst in baseball, but the top of that system isn’t that bad. It notably features respected capture contender Korey Lee, who could potentially target the Cubs as heir to the Contreras throne.


    Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Savant.

Leave a Comment