The Astros are still in need of a starting catcher and the Chicago Cubs are looking at trading catcher Willson Contreras. Could this be a viable solution?
The Winter Meetings have arrived and the Astros still have a vacancy for an everyday backstop. According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, inside sources say the Chicago Cubs are shopping catcher Willson Conteras and the Astros may be interested in such a transaction.
"“The Astros went into this offseason with an interest in Willson Contreras, according to a source familiar with the team’s thinking, and they have a need for a frontline catcher.” via Patrick Mooney"
The 27-year old has nice offensive numbers and could be a good fit for the Astro to plug into an already potent lineup. Contreras had a slash line of .272/.355/.533 with an OPS+ of 125 and made the All-Star Game in the last two seasons. His wRC+ of 127 led all Major League catchers with 400 PA or more and his Fangraphs 2.7 WAR came in fifth.
Compare those stats to Robinson Chirinos, the top available catcher left on the free-agent market. Chirinos slashed .248/.347/.443 with a 102 OPS+. His wRC+ of 113 and 2.3 WAR both came in under what Contreras put up.
It’s said that Contreras isn’t one of the best at pitch-framing catchers but can be considered average. He did come in ninth in the National League in 2018 with a 1.7 defensive WAR and led the league that season with 27 caught base stealers.
With Yasmani Grandal off the board, Chirinos will be one of the more sought after free agent catchers and will most likely drive up his price. Last season with the Astros he brought in $5.75 million and may demand more than that this year. Contreras is in his first year of arbitration and is projected to get $4.5 million.
What the Cubs would want in exchange for Contreras is the big question. It’s expected to be rather high. One of their needs is in the outfield and Josh Reddick may be of interest to them in some sort of package deal. That would help the Astros pare down their 2020 payroll even more with the savings in what Contreras would cost versus Chirinos, along with the shedding of Reddick’s $13 million salary, or a large portion of it anyway.
Contreas could be an interesting option for the Astros in a position that needs to be addressed soon. Plus, the fact that the Astros would have control over him through the 2022 season would give #3 prospect Korey Lee time to develop in the Minor Leagues before bringing him up to the Majors.