Commentary: Cubs should extend Willson Contreras, make him captain


by - Staff Writer -
Contreras is a beloved member of the Cubs (Mark Rebilas - USA Today Sports)
Contreras is a beloved member of the Cubs (Mark Rebilas - USA Today Sports)

As the Cubs face their second rebuild over the last decade, there are multiple questions to answer for the front office.

Over the last calendar the Cubs have made numerous future looking moves, dealing the Cy Young runner up Yu Darvish and Víctor Caratini before the 2021 season and trading Joc Pederson, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, Jake Marisnick, Craig Kimbrel, Trevor Williams, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in exchange for a combination of 10-15 young MLB ready players and prospects at the 2021 trade deadline.

The Cubs now sit with a bolstered farm system, a ton of financial flexibility, and a fair share of holes on the major league roster. The Cubs also have frustrated fans and must begin turning the tide toward the next great Cubs team.

As the Cubs go into this offseason, there are a few moving parts. Jed Hoyer and the Cubs have just hired Carter Hawkins to be the team’s general manager. While the general manager’s meetings are set to begin in California this week, there is an expiring collective bargaining agreement, and a potential impending labor stoppage as the players and owners negotiate the next CBA. This will likely bring a DH to both leagues and very much so change the landscape of free agency, so it is unlikely that any teams will make that large of a splash until that is settled.

But the Cubs are tasked with treading water and beginning to rebuild, and one of the biggest question marks to an organization currently faces is about catcher Willson Contreras. Contreras is now 29-years old and has just one more season of club control left before he becomes a free agent. He will go through his third year of arbitration this winter.

The organization has just said goodbye to much of the core of the World Series-winning team in 2016 via trades in July. In fact, Contreras joins Kyle Hendricks and Jason Heyward as the only players left standing from the curse-breaking team.

So will the Cubs hang on to Contreras and extend him, cementing him as the catcher of the future? Or will they trade him in his walk year like they did Bryant, Baez, and Rizzo?

At the 2021 trade deadline, Hoyer said that they had “no reason to go halfway” when they tore down the current Cubs core. To me, that makes it pretty clear the Cubs did not have plans to deal Contreras but rather have him be a centerpiece of the next Cubs core.

Tom Rickets and Hoyer have made it very clear that the Cubs plan on using their resources to be competitive in 2022 and beyond — so what better way to be competitive than to lock up your two-time all-star catcher to a long-term deal.

Contreras was the pulse of the Cubs during the second half. He knows the pitching staff extremely well and is arguably the best catcher bat in the National League. In addition, his knock was regarding pitch framing, and he has made a tremendous effort to improve that area of his game.

The Venezuelan native has hit 20+ homers in three of his six seasons and has 100 caught stealings and 26 pick-offs over that time. His aggressiveness and passion on both sides of the ball are what makes him so special — and an attractive piece to retain for the future.

Contreras has also faced some injury issues, so he may come a bit cheaper than expected. However, his durability has been a huge plus for the Cubs over the last six seasons. If the Cubs can lock up a viable backup to ease Contreras’ responsibilities, extending Contreras makes plenty of sense for the Cubs.

Hoyer should make Contreras the next captain of the Cubs — otherwise, Cubs fans will have to say another hard goodbye.

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