The Cubs are very much open for business this winter as Jed Hoyer engages in what is starting to look like a much bigger overhaul than all that talk about threading the needle implied. Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini were shipped to San Diego in exchange for one year of Zach Davies and a quartet of low-level prospects who will take years to develop, if they ever do.
Some took the departure of the backup catcher to mean the Cubs would surely be keeping Willson Contreras, maybe even extend him. But as we’ve been saying here for quite a while now, the 28-year-old backstop is the Cubs’ most valuable trade chip and the team might see more merit in moving him now than in trying to extend him beyond his age-30 season.
Joel Sherman reported earlier this month that the Cubs were “very open” to trading Contreras and now comes another report from Bob Nightengale that they are “extensively shopping” the catcher. And before remind either me or yourself to consider the source, this isn’t just a matter of idle speculation from someone who’s earned a reputation for being less than accurate. Even if that was the case, the dots are pretty big and entirely too easy to connect here.
The Chicago #Cubs, after trading Yu Darvish and non-tendering Kyle Schwarber, are now extensively shopping catcher Willson Contreras. Contreras is projected to earn at least $5 million and perhaps as much as $7.4 million in salary arbitration, per @mlbtraderumors
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 29, 2020
I’m not saying a trade will absolutely happen, but I’ve believed since last year that Contreras was the most likely core player to be traded. Significantly decreasing the team’s competitiveness by moving Darvish and Caratini indicates a desire to slash payroll and punt on 2021, so Hoyer can no longer settle for half measures. That means moving his All-Star catcher and rolling with some sort of patchwork combo behind the plate.
Just don’t go thinking that means Miguel Amaya is going to be called up. Even if he was ready to handle an everyday role in Chicago, which I don’t think is the case yet, there’s no way the Cubs would waste at least a year of his service time by rushing him up to start for a team that isn’t ready to compete.
My guess if they do move Contreras is that you’ll see P.J. Higgins and a cheap vet like Josh Phegley or someone similar on a one-year deal. Let’s face it, they’re not exactly worried about premium performance from the position if this comes to pass. It feels really oogy to frame the situation like that, but there’s no point in dancing around it.
All indications are that the Cubs are going to tear it down faster than the old McDonald’s and Taco Bell locations that used to exist near Wrigley. Which is weird because they told us something different just a month ago.
“I would always take Jed’s recommendation on what to do with what happens on the field,” Ricketts said when Hoyer was officially named president of baseball operations. “But I don’t think anybody’s tearing anything down.”