This week, MLB general managers will be meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. (And doesn’t that sound like a nice, much warmer place to be than Chicago right now?)
Thus there will be trade talk going on. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan got some Cubs fans riled up late Friday with this tweet:
Multiple teams in search of catching help believe Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will be available this winter. The Cubs will get creative this winter, and with a deep catching free agent market, they could trade Contreras and begin retooling under new manager David Ross.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 8, 2019
First, let’s look at what that tweet doesn’t say.
It doesn’t say Willson Contreras has been put on the trade block by the Cubs. There are no specific teams listed who are interested, just “multiple” teams (and certainly, there’s likely a “mystery” team in there, there always seems to be). The teams “believe” Contreras will be available this winter, but no specifics are given, either from the Cubs point of view or those “multiple” teams’ point of view.
First, let me say I generally take a very dim view of tweets like this. They are almost always posted to stir up discussion, clicks and controversy. The information given in them is, at times, planted by baseball team executives just to see whether there is actual interest out there, or not, or sometimes to see who’s leaking information out of front offices who’d rather keep that close to the vest. (Hint: The Cubs front office is one of those places.)
To me, it would make zero sense to trade a 27-year-old catcher who can hit with power and is very good at throwing out runners. Contreras’ style of play is also one that can energize a team. The only reason most teams would deal a player like this is if they’re rebuilding. Passan uses the phrase “retooling,” but what does that mean? Trade Contreras for what, exactly? And then replace him with... who, exactly? Sign Yasmani Grandal as a free agent? That’d cost money that the Cubs have pretty much implied they’re not going to spend. Contreras, per MLB Trade Rumors, will probably be paid about $4.5 million in arbitration in 2020. That’s pretty reasonable for a player of his skills.
To replace Contreras with Victor Caratini as a starter and some random veteran as his backup would be a definite downgrade.
Granted, Contreras is not a good pitch framer and that is something that teams generally consider very important, and will until we get the robot umpires. (Soon, I hope, though I know MLB still wants to test automated strike-zone systems quite a bit more before they put them into practice.)
Now, let’s also stipulate this: The Cubs are making sweeping changes both in the executive suite and field management, a reaction to a one-and-done postseason in 2018 and a really bad end to the 2019 season. This is a natural thing for baseball teams to do. And no doubt, as Theo Epstein has often stated, there are no “untouchables” on this Cubs team. You can read that any way you like; the way I see it is that he will certainly listen to calls for anyone and everyone on the roster, including Willson Contreras. In The Athletic Monday morning, Sahadev Sharma tries to make the case for trading Willson:
By moving Contreras, the Cubs could focus on upgrading various areas of their roster and create depth in a system that’s ranked as one of the worst in baseball. Moving any other player would mean not being able to easily fill the void, and only [Javy] Báez would definitely net a better return. As valuable as [Kris] Bryant is, the conservative nature of front offices, competition in free agency and his contract status likely mean a lesser return than one would expect.
I suppose that makes some sense, but then Sharma continues:
None of this is ideal. Trading any of these players and not replacing them with an impact talent in free agency isn’t how the Cubs improve in 2020.
I agree with this. Are the Cubs in their contention window or aren’t they? I say they are, and trading Contreras wouldn’t be the way to keep that window open, in my view. So I seriously doubt that Contreras is at the top of the chopping block. Theo certainly knows what he has in Contreras and would only deal him if he were blown away by an offer, an overpay, perhaps. That doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Thus these “multiple teams” can believe what they wish. Unless that “blown away” thing happens, I’m reasonably certain that Willson Contreras will be behind the plate for the Cubs March 26, 2020 at Miller Park when the Cubs open the season against the Brewers.
Regarding Willson Contreras...
This poll is closed
The Cubs should trade him this winter, no matter the return
The Cubs should trade him this winter only if they are "blown away" by an overpay
The Cubs should not trade him this winter, but should consider it midseason if they’re out of contention
The Cubs should not trade him this winter. Maybe next winter
The Cubs should not trade him at all
Something else (leave in comments)