Many Cubs fans, and others across baseball, were surprised when Willson Contreras was still a Cub after the trading deadline last August.
Contreras will soon receive a qualifying offer, and many expect him to reject it. It is, I suppose, possible he’ll take it and remain a Cub next year, but those chances are small. Presuming he does reject it, the Cubs will receive draft pick compensation, and we won’t know the results of that at the MLB level for several years.
The Cubs could have had a MLB starting pitcher in exchange for Contreras at the deadline in a deal with the Astros.
This is not me making this up. This was reported as a small part of a very long article by ESPN’s Jeff Passan about the making of this year’s champion Astros:
The Astros and Chicago Cubs were in agreement on a trade to send star catcher Willson Contreras to the Astros for starter Jose Urquidy, four sources familiar with the deal told ESPN. The straight-up trade was agreed upon, pending owner approval. That approval never came.
“Much as I like Willson Contreras, Urquidy was one of our best pitchers then,” Baker said. “I needed a guy that wasn’t going to complain about not playing every day. And this is his [free agent] year. See, that’s tough. When you trade for a player in his [free agent] year. Everybody’s about numbers and stuff, and I can’t blame them, no doubt. But that’s not what we needed.”
Jose Urquidy had a pretty good year for Houston: 29 appearances (28 starts), 3.94 ERA, 1.168 WHIP, 1.3 bWAR. But his only appearance in the postseason was three innings of relief in Game 3 of the World Series when Houston was already down 7-0.
Meanwhile, the Astros acquired Christian Vázquez from the Red Sox for two minor leaguers to add to their catching corps when they couldn’t make the deal for Contreras. They seemed pretty happy with the tandem of Vázquez and Martin Maldonado, though Contreras might have helped them at DH during the World Series. Houston’s DH’s went 5-for-23 (.217) during the World Series.
But they won the championship anyway. Contreras wouldn’t have moved the needle on that.
On the other hand, Urquidy would have gone right into the Cubs rotation and solidified it. He turns 28 next March and is arbitration eligible. MLB Trade Rumors estimates Urquidy’s 2023 salary at $3.2 million, which seems pretty reasonable for a pitcher of his abilities.
Anyway, it’s pretty unusual to have a deal like this, which apparently was close to happening but didn’t, revealed months afterward. Thought you would all like to know.