Cardinals: 5 early offseason trade and free agent targets

Tyler O'Neill (27) is congratulated by second baseman Tommy Edman (19) and designated hitter Albert Pujols (5) after a walk-off hit by pitch with the bases loaded against the Colorado Rockies during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler O'Neill (27) is congratulated by second baseman Tommy Edman (19) and designated hitter Albert Pujols (5) after a walk-off hit by pitch with the bases loaded against the Colorado Rockies during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aug 4, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) hits a double against the St. Louis Cardinals during the sixth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) hits a double against the St. Louis Cardinals during the sixth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Willson Contreras

Perhaps the most rumored big name for St. Louis as of late, Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras would be a huge get for St. Louis and add another dimension to their lineup and a seasoned catcher to follow after Molina’s tenure.

There are a lot of reasons to be intrigued by a Contreras signing for St. Louis. First, whoever takes on the mantle of starting catcher following Molina is going to be under immense pressure and scrutiny. Expecting someone like Andrew Knizner or Ivan Hererra may be asking too much of either player.

Signing or trading for a stopgap catcher could do the trick, but why not go big on the weakest position on the roster? Contreras was the starting catcher on the 2016 World Series winning Cubs, meaning he has endured some of the highest pressure situations a player can find themselves in.

Having perhaps his career best season at the plate, Contreras is slashing .249/.358/.472 with 19 HR and 48 RBI for the rebuilding Cubs. Contreras has interesting splits for this St. Louis club, carrying a higher average vs. right handed pitching (.254 vs. .237 against left handed), but a much higher slugging percentage against southpaws (.581 vs. 435 against righties).

Contreras should be able to stick behind the plate for the duration of his contract, and is one of the better defensive catchers in the game. His bat carries value beyond the position as well, meaning he can DH or play in the corner outfield as needed  so he provides a long term safety net in case he cannot continue to catch.

Signing Contreras will not come cheap, but St. Louis is paying $10 million to Molina this season, a number that is far too high for the production he is giving. Contreras will likely command in the $20-$25 million AAV range over 5 years, but some within the industry believe he may have a smaller market than originally thought after the Cubs were unable to move him at the deadline.

Signing catchers to big deals can be risky, but the potential of stealing the last major piece of the Cubs World Series run from the club and having him help get St. Louis over the hump is tantalizing.

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