Latest on the market for Willson Contreras

Free agency starts in a few days, and Willson Contreras will be the undisputed best safety net available. The career-long Cub is certain to receive and reject a qualifying offer from Chicago while its representatives at Octagon search for a solid, multi-year pact.

Although the clubs cannot officially begin discussing contract terms with other teams’ free agents until Thursday, they have undoubtedly identified players of interest with the current offseason. A few teams outside of Chicago have already vaguely emerged in the Contreras market. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted this morning, the Tigers are interested in the triple All-Star, while Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link) hears the Astros are considering a free agent pursuit.

It is easy to see the link in both cases. Detroit is led by first-year president of baseball operations Scott Harris, who worked in the Cubs’ front office until the end of the 2019 season. advance in free agency, but there is a clear opportunity for them to seek help. Detroit sees Tucker Barnhart hit free agency, and it seems unlikely that he will return after a tough year. Eric Hase has decent power and could be an immediate catch option after hitting .254/.305/.443 in 110 games, but he’s never ranked very well defensively and may be better suited for increased work in the field left and/or to the designated hitter.

Harris declined to comment specifically on Contreras in his interviews with reporters at GM meetings tonight (via Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free-Press). However, he seemed largely open to the idea of ​​adding outside catching help to the organization. Harris noted the presence of some potential in-house talent – ​​likely mostly in reference to the former second-round pick Dillon Dingler and in the 11th round 2021 Josh Crouch — but downplayed the likelihood of someone in the system grabbing that job for 2023. Neither Dingler nor Crouch need to be added to the 40-man roster this winter, and neither has yet reached Triple-A . It’s fair to ask if Detroit should be willing to give up a draft pick for a qualified free agent following a 66-win season, but it seems likely the Tigers will approach the receiver in some form over the course of the season. of the next few months.

The Astros’ interest in Contreras dates back at least to last summer. The front office struck a deal that would have sent Jose Urquidy to the Cubs for Contreras at the deadline, but Houston owner Jim Crane vetoed it. Houston pivoted to land Christian Vazquez of the Red Sox instead, but he is now the No. 2 safety net behind Contreras in free agency. Vázquez reunion seems unlikely after seeing sporadic playing time behind Martin Maldonado on the section. Maldonado’s presence could also be an obstacle to a pursuit against Contreras, given the World Series champion’s longtime affinity for the defensive specialist, but Contreras could be such a marked offensive upgrade that the team is ready. to consider cutting Maldonado’s playing time to add an impact bat.

Certainly, the interest in Contreras will extend far beyond just two teams. High-ranking executives with the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Red Sox have already publicly stated they are open to being added behind the plate. Athletics’ Katie Woo tweet the Cardinals view the catcher as their No. 1 priority, with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak open to both free agent and trade possibilities. The Cardinals have long prioritized elite defense behind the dish with Yadier Molinamaking it perhaps an odd fit for a first player like Contreras, but Woo relays that St. Louis isn’t just looking for defensive mainstays, but prioritizing overall positional impact.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, may be more apprehensive about Contreras’ mixed reputation as a point guard. The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier writes that Boston is unlikely to make a serious run at the backstop of 30 years because they focus on managing a pitching staff. Concerns over Contreras’ play-calling acumen were also mentioned at the deadline, possibly playing a role in the Cubs not finding an offer that inspired them to part ways with him despite the fact that they were well out of the playoffs. Speier notes Red Sox have long been interested in A’s backstop Sean Murphy — who will be a frequent trade target again this winter — and reports they’ve already inquired about the Padres Austin Nola.

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