The Chicago Cubs have already had a busy offseason. They named David Ross their new manager and overhauled their coaching staff to start the post-Joe Maddon era. There are also rumblings the team could move a cornerstone player, possibly even Kris Bryant, to clear payroll and shake up a roster that maybe has gotten a little stale the last few years.
Among the other cornerstone Cubs who could be moved: Willson Contreras. Earlier this week it was reported other clubs expect the Cubbies to make their catcher available in a trade. Presumably, the idea would be to trade Contreras for multiple young players, then sign a free agent catcher (Jason Castro? Travis d'Arnaud? Yasmani Grandal?) to replace him.
Contreras, 27, is projected to make $4.5 million through arbitration next season, and he will remain under team control through 2022. Three years of control of a good young catcher is incredibly valuable and should fetch a significant trade package. It's a hard position to fill and Contreras is among the most productive backstops in the game. The 2017-19 catcher WAR leaderboard:
- J.T. Realmuto: 12.5 WAR
- Willson Contreras: 9.8 WAR
- Gary Sanchez: 8.3 WAR
- Yasmani Grandal: 8.0 WAR
- Robinson Chirinos: 7.9 WAR
Will the Cubs actually trade Contreras? Who knows. I suppose it depends on the offers and what Chicago plans to do behind the plate going forward. If they're going to trade him simply to shake up the roster, well, that seems like a bad idea. I trust Theo Epstein & Co. would have a method to their madness should they actually trade Contreras.
Which teams could most use Contreras? Most of them, really. Few teams have a comparable (or better) catcher on their roster. The guess here is the other 29 teams will all check in on Contreras this offseason only because he's really good and quality catchers are hard to find. They'll check out of due diligence at the very least.
So, with that in mind, let's rank all 30 MLB teams based on how much they could use Contreras and how likely they are to pursue him this winter. Needing him and pursuing him don't always go together.
|What, you can't see the Cardinals making a trade with the Cubs to replace Yadier Molina behind the plate?|
|Realmuto is the best all-around catcher in baseball and the Phillies are trying to sign him long-term. They're not going to trade for Contreras. They're set behind the plate and have to focus on other needs (pitching, mostly).|
|The Yankees essentially have the American League version of Contreras behind the plate in Sanchez. He is under control just as long and is just as productive. New York has to replace backup catcher Austin Romine this offseason, but they won't do it by trading for Contreras.|
|The Dodgers are more likely to trade a catcher than trade for a catcher this offseason. Will Smith is the new starter behind the plate, Austin Barnes is a good enough backup, and top prospect Keibert Ruiz is a prime trade chip. I would never rule out Los Angeles doing someone unusual like bringing in Contreras as a part-time catcher, part-time first baseman, part-time outfielder. I just wouldn't bet on it.|
|The D-Backs have money to spend this winter, but they already have a really good young catcher in Carson Kelly. Don't expect to see Contreras heading to the desert this offseason.|
|Contreras is three years away from free agency and, realistically, will the Orioles contend before then? Probably not. Besides, Baltimore has a franchise catcher in their farm system in 2019 No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman.|
|Despite an all-around miserable season, the Mariners have a very productive catcher tandem in Omar Narvaez and Tom Murphy. Narvaez is under team control through 2022 and Murphy through 2023. Catcher probably isn't the best place for Seattle to use their trade chips at the moment.|
|Did you know Jorge Alfaro slugged 18 homers with the third strongest arm among catchers, according to Statcast? True story. He's also under team control through 2023. The Marlins are kinda sorta moving in the direction of contending, but they're still a ways off, and trading for Contreras doesn't make much sense at this point in time.|
|Salvador Perez is due to return from Tommy John surgery next year and he is a heart and soul player for the Royals. Also, Kansas City is not ready to contend, and they should use their trade chips to acquire players who play positions other than their beloved franchise player.|
|The Blue Jays have a very promising young catcher tandem in righty hitting Danny Jansen and the lefty hitting Reese McGuire. That's a duo that can be part of the next contending team in Toronto. The Blue Jays should use their trade chips on pitching, not another catcher.|
|Like the Orioles, the Tigers are still years away from contention, and are probably best served focusing their trade efforts on players with longer term control than Contreras. Detroit ranks ahead of Baltimore because they don't have a Rutschman in the farm system (though Jake Rogers is interesting enough).|
|Buster Posey has reached the "he probably needs to spend more time at first base going forward, if only for his health" phase of his career, but the Giants already have their catcher of the future in 2018 No. 2 pick Joey Bart. Would the Giants be better with Contreras on their roster? Yes. Is this the best way for San Francisco to use their resources? No, it is not.|
|The Pirates do not have an obvious catcher of the future, or even an obvious catcher of the present, for that matter. They are more likely to tear things down and rebuild under their new general manager, whoever that ends up being, than they are trading for a player like Contreras. Not gonna happen.|
|My head says the Padres don't need Contreras because they have Francisco Mejia, a recent top prospect, and pitch-framing god Austin Hedges behind the plate. My heart says the Padres are unpredictable these days, and trading Mejia for Contreras does make some sense given San Diego's apparent win-now mentality. Do they need him? No, but don't rule out the Padres jumping into this race.|
|Word is the Red Sox want to cut payroll this offseason and they already have the productive (and affordable) Christian Vazquez behind the plate. Contreras doesn't seem like the best way for Boston to use whatever trade chips they have.|
|Wilson Ramos is an obstacle. He can really hit, but several Mets pitchers said they don't like throwing to him, and his $9.25 million salary makes trading him difficult. Contreras would be an upgrade behind the plate and the Mets are trying to win. Maybe there's a blockbuster deal to be made here? Contreras and Bryant for Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto, with other stuff thrown in to balance it out?|
|The Braves have already re-signed pitch-framing extraordinaire Tyler Flowers and they have prospect Alex Jackson ready to step in for Brian McCann. That said, Contreras represents an upgrade over Flowers and Jackson, and Atlanta is very much a win-now team with prospects to trade. I'd call a Contreras to the Braves trade unlikely, but not impossible.|
|The Indians have the productive (and affordable) Roberto Perez behind the plate already, so here's a crazy idea: Contreras in the outfield. He has played a handful of games in left and right fields in his career and Cleveland could certainly use the outfield upgrade. That said, Contreras is most valuable behind the plate. Trading a big haul for a top catcher and moving him to a considerably less valuable position doesn't make much sense.|
|Give the Reds credit, they tried to win this past season and they're going to try to win again next year (hence the Trevor Bauer trade). Tucker Barnhart is fine behind the plate. Nothing more, nothing less. Contreras could be an upgrade and a considerable one, and he'd add length to the lineup. Would the Cubs trade Contreras within the division? Maybe, but I'd bet against it.|
|The World Champions declined their option on Yan Gomes and will go forward with Kurt Suzuki and likely either Raudy Read or Tres Barrera behind the plate. Contreras would help, no doubt, and I could see the Nationals getting involved if Anthony Rendon signs elsewhere and leaves a big hole in the middle of the lineup.|
|Mitch Garver had a breakout 2019 season at the plate while making big strides behind it. The Twins benefited greatly from having two above-average catchers last year (Castro and Garver), but it seems unlikely they would use their trade chips to bring in a guy like Contreras when they have already have Garver from the right side. There's a fit given their two-catcher system and Contreras' versatility though.|
|Chirinos did fine work this past season but is now a free agent. Garrett Stubbs projects more as a backup than a starter and 2019 first round pick Korey Lee is years away from taking over behind the plate. Contreras has three years of control remaining and that lines up perfectly with Houston's window of contention. Remember, the Astros tried to acquire Realmuto last offseason. They're in the market for an impact catcher with multiple years of control.|
|With the obvious caveat that a Brewers-Cubs trade is not happening, gosh, Contreras would be a swell fit for Milwaukee, wouldn't he? The Brewers are likely to lose Grandal to free agency and sure, a Manny Pina/David Freitas platoon could be good enough, but why settle for good enough? Like I said though, a Brewers-Cubs trade isn't happening.|
|The Cubs don't have to trade Contreras. Victor Caratini is a nice enough player, but he's not Contreras, and the Cubbies are trying to win next season. Yeah, Chicago could benefit from the multiple young players they'd acquire in a Contreras trade, but they'd also be weaker behind the plate. I say keep him unless you're blown away with an offer.|
|The Rangers are moving into a new ballpark next season and figure to have a very active offseason. They're going to try to open their new facility with a winner. Jeff Mathis is a quality defense-first backup and Jose Trevino should not stand in the way of a catcher upgrade. Texas has an opening behind the plate and the motivation to get better this winter. They're a great fit for Contreras.|
|The Tony Wolters/Dom Nunez tandem leaves an awful lot to be desired. The Rockies have the core of a contender despite their 91-loss season in 2019, and Contreras would represent a pretty big upgrade behind the plate. How about a Jon Gray for Contreras trade? That'd be fun.|
|The Joe Maddon hire shows the Angels are ready to win and win now. And why wouldn't they be? Mike Trout is in his prime and Shohei Ohtani has shown he's an impact player. The current catching tandem in Anaheim is, uh, Kevan Smith and Max Stassi. Yeah, Contreras is a mighty fine fit for the Angels.|
|Sean Murphy is one of the better catching prospects in the game and he took over as the Athletics starter behind the plate late in the season. That said, the A's are ready to win right now -- MVP candidate Marcus Semien is one year away from free agency and both Matt Chapman and Matt Olson are a year away from getting expensive through arbitration -- and Contreras represents more of a sure thing behind the plate. Don't sleep on the A's as a landing spot for Contreras.|
|The White Sox are on the brink of contention. Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Yoan Moncada anchor the offense, Lucas Giolito is a bona fide ace, Michael Kopech is due to return from Tommy John surgery next year, and top prospect Luis Robert is on the way. James McCann had a fine year in 2019 but probably isn't the long-term solution at catcher. Contreras would fill a position of need and he's young enough to be part of the core moving forward. The Jimenez-Jose Quintana trade shows these two teams are not opposed to making a significant crosstown trade.|
|d'Arnaud is a free agent after having a very strong season and Mike Zunino is a non-tender candidate given his projected $4.9 million salary. Also, top catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez had an underwhelming season at high Class A and is a few years away from contributing. The Rays certainly have the prospects to trade and a clear need not only behind the plate, but also for right-handed power. Plus I'm sure Tampa would love that they can play Contreras in the outfield and at first base on occasion. They're all about versatility. Given their trade chips and roster needs, there isn't a better fit for Contreras than the Rays.|