The decision to hold onto Willson Contreras at the trade deadline was a matter of receiving inadequate offers, not a function of the Cubs’ desire to work out a long-term deal with the three-time All-Star catcher. The Mets may be kicking themselves for being too scared to make necessary upgrades to their roster, but the Cubs seem to be content with their choice because Contreras was apparently not part of their plan for the future either way.
Following a report from Sahadev Sharma that the club likely wants to move in a different direction at catcher comes an even more definitive statement from Bob Nightengale.
“He’s gone for sure,” Nightengale told NBC Sports Chicago’s Mike Berman. “The Cubs really have no interest in keeping him.”
Given the source of the quote, some folks might be expecting the Cubs to announce an extension with Contreras here in the next few days. But despite the USA Today scribe’s questionable accuracy, this information tracks with what many have believed for a while now. The two sides never engaged in discussions about a new contract, at least not in a meaningful way, and Contreras has spoken more than once about free agency being a dream come true.
It now appears as though the only thing that will be extended is a qualifying offer, which became a certainty once the trade deadline passed with Contreras still in a Cubs uniform. While it’s possible the catcher could accept it, good money is on him declining and moving on to a new team. That would not only give the Cubs a way to mitigate any penalties they would incur for signing a QO player of their own, it would also free up a little more payroll for other pursuits.
Not that they should need to shave off a few million in order to make a big splash in free agency, mind you. But if they are indeed looking for more of a game manager behind the plate, they’ll be able to do so for much less than either the QO or the AAV on a new Contreras deal. Any “savings” in that regard could then be spent to round out the roster with mid-level players, assuming the front office makes a splash at the top of the market.
After losing a great deal of talent and star power over the last two seasons, there had better be some very big additions in the offing. The brass also needs to do a better job of adequately filling gaps and complementing weaknesses, something that wasn’t done well post-2016. It won’t take much to be competitive in the NL Central, but winning games in the postseason is a different story.
Speaking of which, the Cubs won more games in October than the Cardinals did this year. Now we can only hope Contreras doesn’t pull a Dexter Fowler and end up in St. Louis.