The Chicago Cubs non-tendered Kyle Schwarber and shipped out ace Yu Darvish. Now they have reportedly made Wilson Contreras available. Is this a move Mike Rizzo needs to make?
After winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs were predicted to be the next big dynasty. After all, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez all had four-plus years remaining on their respective contracts. But from 2017-2020, the Cubs only made it back to the NLCS once and the front office has been set on cutting costs. After non-tendering Schwarber, the Cubs traded ace Yu Darvish to the Padres in what appears to be a salary dump. However, the front office isn’t finished cutting costs.
With the Cubs, Wilson Contreras has emerged as one of the best offensive catchers in the game, but like his teammates, took a huge step back in 2020. He finished the shortened season hitting .243, with seven homers, 26 RBIs, and an OPS of .763. In the Cubs Wild Card matchup with the Marlins, the catcher went 1-4, with a walk. However, he is a career .265 hitter and as recently as 2019 hit .272, with a career-high 24 homers, 64 RBIs, and an OPS of .888. From 2017-2019, he has been worth three-plus WAR, supplementing him as a solid role player.
Still in arbitration, MLB Trade Rumors projects Contreras will make anywhere from $5-$7.4 million, a reasonable price for a contending team. With the Cubs looking to save money, should Mike Rizzo pull the trigger and bring the catcher to D.C.? If the price is right, absolutely. The Nats Report also agrees. They recently explained that Washington needs to be in the thick of the Cub’s ongoing firesale.
Yan Gomes is Washington’s projected opening day starting catcher, with last year’s starter Kurt Suzuki a free agent. Never known for his bat, Contreras would be an instant upgrade over Gomes at the plate. After trading for Josh Bell, Washington still needs another bat or two to seriously contend and Contreras fits the bill. He is only 28 (will be 29 in 2021) and would provide much-needed production from the middle of the lineup, seen by his career wRC+ of 116.
Defensively, Contreras has struggled with pitch framing, posting a -31.9 frame rate (FRM), however, he posted a 1.7 FRM in 2020. Despite his framing, Contreras is solid behind the plate, posting four career DRS and throwing out 31.5% of base runners. Platooning him with Gomes allows for Washington to improve their lineup while keeping both of their catchers fresh, similar to their 2019 situation.
The downside is Washington has a barren farm system which to work with. With Luis Garcia, Jackson Rutledge, and Cade Cavalli all off-limits, Washington could dangle Carter Kieboom as a centerpiece. If the Nationals still see Kieboom as part of the future, another option is offering two of Mason Denaburg, Tim Cate, and Seth Romero.
Contreras’s age, offensive, and defensive production, plus his projected contract make him a great fit for the lineup. If the price is right, Mike Rizzo needs to pull the trigger.