Emotional Willson Contreras Discusses Approaching End of Cubs Tenure: ‘It’s About Business’
Willson Contreras is in the midst of the best season of his illustrious career, having already generated a mark of 2.8 fWAR that is more than in any other full campaign he’s ever had. He was named the starting catcher for the NL All-Star team for the third time and he’s become the leader in a Cubs clubhouse that features a lot of young faces. In short, he looks like a franchise cornerstone.
The only problem is that he’s not under contract beyond this season and a trade has been inevitable for quite some time now. That Contreras was able to back-burner all of that for so long is pretty incredible, though the realization that he made be about to play his last home game at Wrigley has caught up to him.
Contreras was visibly emotional in the locker room after Monday’s win, which was the Cubs’ fifth straight after dropping nine in a row.
“It’s tough,” Contreras said after taking a few moments to gather himself. “Knowing everything that is happening around [the trade rumors], I knew it would get to me at some point. I wish this day never came, but it’s about business. I understand, I respect that.
“I love my teammates most and I don’t wanna get too attached to them because you never know what’s gonna happen next week. Or this week even, San Francisco. But it’s been a tough, tough couple days for me.”
That mention of San Franciso may not simply be a matter of the Cubs heading there for a long weekend series after they finish up with the Pirates, as the Giants are in Wild Card contention and could use catching help. The Mets and Astros have talked with the Cubs as well, and the Padres have had talks about trying to acquire both Contreras and Ian Happ.
It’s impossible for any player in that position to insulate themselves from the rumors, especially after watching what happened to all those former Cubs stars last season. Knowing it’s a business doesn’t make it any easier to come to terms with the reality that the only organization you’ve ever known is getting ready to trade you.
If it wasn’t already evident that teams are starting to prep their offers, a recent report from Jeff Passan ($) makes it even more clear that gamesmanship is afoot. Teams that want to get in on Contreras aren’t just trying to put together their most attractive prospect package, they want to downplay their interest and/or drive down the catcher’s perceived value.
Multiple teams, sources said, worry about Contreras — who is not known for his game-calling acumen — meshing with a new pitching staff on the fly. The number of teams with World Series aspirations that could use a catching upgrade isn’t huge, but the New York Mets and Houston Astros have been in contact with the Cubs about the 30-year-old free agent-to-be, sources said, and the San Francisco Giants are poking around on catching options, too. Other teams could seek Contreras more as a bat with the ability to play catcher rather than acquiring him as a primary backstop.
In addition to the Cubs playing really good baseball over the last several games, you’re going to want to keep tuning in over the next week because Contreras will almost certainly be in a different uniform by August 3 at the latest. Same goes for Happ, which I’ll cover separately. All I know is that Jed Hoyer had better have some very big plans for this offseason and beyond because what is already a bad team is going to be much worse here very soon.
“This is probably, I don’t know, probably my last home stand with the fans this year,” Contreras said with not a little difficulty. “It’s tough for me. It’s really tough.”