Where Cubs Willson Contreras Could Trade


Where Cubs Willson Contreras Could Trade

The Cubs are yet to sign catcher Willson Contreras for a contract extension and if or until that changes, that makes him a particularly intriguing trade contender at Deadline. Contreras, 30, has had the best start of his career by far, with a .931 OPS and a 57% hard hit rate that ranks fourth-best in all of baseball, behind only Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton.

Factor in the fact that offense is harder than ever to find from catchers — no, really, catchers in 2022 are posting just .639 OPS, their weakest since 1968 — and that the rebuilding Cubs are on track for a season that ends without competition and you can see why they would end the season just fine with PJ Higgins, Yan Gomes, John Hicks or any other combination of backstops they could field, assuming a big return for contraras.

You know: Just like last summer with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Báez. It will be years before we know how they fared when they stripped down the core of 2016, but for now, three of their top seven prospects in those professions have been acquired and it should be a good reminder if you’re thinking of one World Series heroes can’t think or act, well, sure they can. you were You will be. That’s especially true for a 30-year-old catcher who’s hitting better than ever and who’s set to enter free agency this winter.

There are a handful of obvious potential targets for Contreras should the Cubs decide to make the move. But first, there’s a bit of an elephant in the room, something that might make a move more difficult than any trading requirements Chicago might have. If you’re having trouble remembering the last time a big catcher traded at or near its peak mid-season, you’re not alone. It’s incredibly rare.

Catcher trades rarely happen during the season

How rare? Let’s go back to 1969, the beginning of the Divisional Era. Let’s find catchers who had at least 300 plate appearances in a season they were traded and only those who had at least a 2.0 WAR that season. In that time there have only been 11 such players – or about one every five years – showing how rare that is.

From here we get subjective. Butch Wynegar, who transfers from the Twins to the Yankees in 1982, qualifies but does counting? We argue that this is not the case. Are we buying Joe Ferguson, who rejoins the Dodgers from the Astros in 1978? It’s your choice; were not. After some back and forth, this is the list of strong catchers traded during the season for the last half century.

That’s it. Seven times in more than 50 years – and we’re not even quite convinced that all of this is part of it anyway.

Why is it so rare? It’s not difficult to understand. The main thing is that if you have a good catcher, you most likely don’t want to give him up. But there’s also the simple fact of the requirements of the position that it’s not just about “now standing in left field with a different-colored hat,” but learning a whole new pitching baton.

For example, imagine Contreras transitioning from the soft-throwing Cubs (who have had the lowest fastball speed in the majors in the last three years) to the fast, advanced pitching styles of the Dodgers or Yankees. It wouldn’t be easy, even for a highly respected defensive catcher. Contreras might have the best limb of any backstop, but he’s also one of the weakest framers of 2022. It’s not that easy to just stick him behind the plate.

Incidentally, none of these trades ended with the acquiring team reaching the World Series. In fact, since baseball’s incorporation in 1947, only two season-earning catchers have started at least two World Series games that year, and neither is a good comparison here. In 1967, Elston Howard started six World Series games for Boston after being acquired by the Yankees in August, but he was already 38 at the time and hit .196 when traded.

Six years earlier, Darrell Johnson started two World Series games for the Reds, but his road to Cincinnati was a wild one. He accepted a coaching position with the Cardinals in 1961 at age 32, but was fired in July when manager Solly Hemus was fired. He signed as a player with the Phillies and won 21 games, then was traded to the Reds in late August — and somehow managed to start World Series games weeks later.

No team in history—not the ’67 Red Sox, or the ’61 Reds, or Zack Taylor’s 1929 Cubs, or the 1925 Senators, or 1926 Yankees, who both had Hank Severeid, or Larry McLean’s 1913 Giants, or Doc Powers’ 1905 A’s – won a World Series with a catcher acquired midseason early in his games. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen – just that it didn’t happen.

The teams that could use Contreras

Of course, that won’t stop teams from adding a batsman, especially as adding the designated batsman to the National League means there could be additional interest from clubs who don’t necessarily want or need Contreras to start behind the plate five days a week . In some cases, if he can start there two or three days a week and be a DH hitter the rest of the time, this could be a situation that works.

It seems to give us six possibilities.

Astros – No team in baseball gets less from their catchers offensively, where Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro combine to hit a seemingly impossible .126/.210/.224. Let’s clear that up; No team in 100+ years has gotten that little insult behind the plate. Maldonado in particular is highly valued for his defense, which is a skill not to be overlooked, but it’s also hard to see a playoff team lagging behind with those kinds of shots. The only issue here is one of squad construction, as when Contreras is the DH, either Michael Brantley or Yordan Álvarez is on the bench. It might not be worth the effort unless they’re willing to let Contreras do most of the catching work.

Yanks – There’s a lot of similarities here with Houston, as Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka add good value behind the plate and absolutely nothing off it (.222/.275/.341), but a path to DH playtime for Contreras might not clear when Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson are available. For Yankees fans concerned that three spots in the lineup aren’t producing — depending on how you feel about Aaron Hicks and Joey Gallo — it could be a concern to address. But given the well-declared commitment to improving defense infield and behind the plate — which has worked — Contreras may not be a step in the direction the Yankees are taking.

father — San Diego, barring Manny Machado and a preseason Eric Hosmer run that’s now faded, just doesn’t beat. They have the third lowest hard hit rate. They have the fourth fewest extra base hits. It’s not bad luck, it’s poor production, but because the defense and pitching have been so strong, they have a 91-win pace and are strong in the NL West race. They’ll be getting Fernando Tatis Jr back soon, which will help, but does anyone even expect AJ Preller to hold up? Austin Nola and Jorge Alfaro (.233/.295/.326) aren’t exactly in the way.

Giants – It’s been a strange season for San Francisco who are 29-24 (and would have a playoff berth if the season ended today) but played poor defense and had even more trouble replacing Buster Posey, than anyone expected. Not that anyone is following in the footsteps of a Hall of Famer, but Joey Bart hits at an incredible 45%; he has only 14 hits this season.

meads – New York has a high-paying backing on the mend in James McCann, who is in the midst of a four-year, $40 million deal. However, that deal never really made sense back then, and so far McCann has only hit .227/.290/.341 as the Met. Tomás Nido and Pat Mazeika were recovering from a broken hamate bone in his absence and only hit .220/.264/.297 themselves. As a group, it’s Catcher’s seventh-weakest offensive production, and while it’s probably not as important as pitching depth, it’s not hard to see how that could work either. There’s more DH time available without Robinson Canó or Dominic Smith, and if any team can live with a high-paying backup like McCann, it’s this Mets team.

rays – Yes, the rays. Hear us about it. They’re not against deadline deals; You traded for Nelson Cruz last summer. They reportedly tried it for Freddie Freeman, too. At 31-23 and their usual strong pitching, they’re very strong in the playoff race, but they’re only 14th in runs scored. That’s partly because Mike Zunino’s up-and-down career is in a severe downturn; He’s only hit .152/.200/.313 while striking almost 40% of the time. Francisco Mejia was a little better, though not by much (.241 OBP and two homers), and he still has a minor league option anyway. Since the Rays tend to combine their DH spot, it’s pretty easy to add Contreras to the lineup — even if they’re not typically the team you’re thinking of here.

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