Wilson ContrerasPhoto: Getty Images
The St. Louis Cardinals found their replacement for now-retired catcher Yadier Molina and struck deals with Willson Contreras a five-year, $87 million contract. After refusing to move Contreras to the trade deadline or pay him, the Chicago Cubs World Series team’s last remaining positional player will now attract the birds on bats and cardinals.
The move is a huge win for the Cardinals, who were happy with Molina’s offensive-behind-the-plate compromise despite the team’s bats delivering three runs in two postseason games — both losses to Philadelphia. Albert Pujols’ swan song really got them the NL Central and they need to replace his production too.
Considering Contreras’ best year was little better than Pujols’ last season, another racquet – preferably a DH – would go a long way. The farm system continues to put guys in the lineup who look like potential Allstars, only to hit nothing but a wall once opposing pitching staffs get a scouting report.
That’s another factor. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt have been by far the team’s best positional players since arriving in St. Louis, and it continues the trend of the farm system not developing consistent support players. Aside from the pandemic season, some combinations of Arenado, Goldschmidt or Marcel Ozuna were the top two on the RBI team.
The failures of Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Paul DeJong and others don’t give St. Louis fans much hope that Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman will ever reach their potential.
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The poor performance could also be the reason hitting coach Jeff Albert resigned after the season. Well, that and Harrison Bader hitting a bajillion postseason homers after joining the Yankees and Kolten Wong finding some semblance of consistency in Milwaukee.
Contreras is a proven performer who will come into a clubhouse with a solid lead up front and should be able to continue his form regardless of the hitting coach, as was the case with Arenado or Goldschmidt.
The fact that he comes from the Cardinals’ most hated rival is just an added bonus. In 95 career games against St. Louis, Contreras hit .249/.368/.441 with 74 hits, including 15 homers, and 47 RBI. Those numbers aren’t mind-blowing, but every big home run feels like five against a vile rival.
I’d say it makes up for Jason Heyward jumping from St. Louis to Chicago in 2016, but Jason Heyward and his contract made up for Jason Heyward’s jump. $87 million doesn’t seem like much for the Cubs, having just paid $68 million for Jameson Taillon, a backend starting pitcher in an already crowded rotation.
However, Chicago has landed Cody Bellinger with a year-long free demo deal, and it’s rumored to be a mid-tier game hunt with Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson in its sights. Who knows how the Contreras saga would have fared if the Cubs had moved him on time as was rumored, but inaction and tight pockets from the front office led to this unfortunate result. They didn’t even placate the would-be perv by moving him for scraps.
Contreras could still have ended up in the shadow of the arch via another club and Chicago could have avoided blame, but here we are.