The St. Louis Cardinals could be frontrunners to land Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras this offseason.
Willson Contreras of the St. Louis Cardinals? It’s more likely than you think.
The Chicago Cubs were one of the shockers at the trade deadline this year in what they didn’t do, keeping Contreras, their stalwart behind the plate since 2016. Now, with Yadier Molina set to retire after this season, the Cardinals are looking for someone to fill the void. An NBC Chicago article speculated that Contreras could fill Molina’s hallowed cleats. He’s an intriguing option.
Contreras, who is expected to decline the Cubs’ likely qualifying offer after the season, is a three-time All-Star and has a career .257 average, more than respectable for a catcher. His defense is adequate at best, and he leads the league in passed balls this year, with seven, but he possesses an excellent arm. His subpar framing skills should be a thing of the past with robot umpires looming.
Andrew Knizner, while improved lately, isn’t a long-term fixture behind the plate. Ivan Herrera has received curiously little playing time in the major leagues, and it could lead one to think that the Cardinals don’t have much faith in him.
Contreras is 30, so he’s likely at the tail end of his prime years, and provided he doesn’t possess Molina’s otherworldly ability to stay behind the plate for his entire lengthy career, he could need to find a new position within a few seasons.
On Contreras’ end, he would seem to be eager to take Molina’s spot. Make of it what you will, but he did “like” several tweets last year about the possibility of replacing Molina.
If the Cardinals aren’t confident that they have the catcher of the future on their hands right now, signing Contreras would be a shrewd move. He likely still has some decent years left, and while he might not provide the elite defense Cardinals fans have been used to since 2004, his hitting should make up for it.
The Cardinals have tended to make their biggest moves in the offseason rather than at the trade deadline in recent years, and if that pattern holds, Contreras could be wearing the birds on the bat in 2023.