Amid Winter Meetings and free agency, the Astros have shown serious interest in veteran catcher Willson Contreras. There was almost a deal in place between the Cubs and Astros just before the deadline, but that fell through after concerns about whether or not Contreras could learn the pitching staff quickly enough.
Contreras is a three-time All-Star and one-time World Series Champion in the National League. The backstop is a career .266 hitter with 117 home runs and 365 runs batted in to his name, good for an .808 career OPS. Contreras is also known for solid defense, with a career .989 fielding percentage, 11 defensive runs saved behind the plate and throwing out 30% of would-be base stealers.
Contreras could potentially provide a big step up offensively from Martin Maldonado, but Maldonado is the better defensive backstop. A gold-glove award winner in 2017, Maldonado has a career fielding percentage of .993 and catches 35% of runners, a whopping eight percent above league average.
If the Astros bring in Contreras, it is likely to see him split time between catcher and designated hitter, with the possibility of some time in left field sprinkled in. He would command a decent-sized contract, having made $22.6 million over his six years and $9.6 million coming in just this past season.
Per Tim Britton of The Athletic (subscription required), Contreras could be looking at a four year deal totaling $74 million.
With the Cubs offering the Venezuelan catcher a qualifying offer, in signing him, the Astros would forfeit a draft pick. The real question is whether the Astros are willing to spend the $70-80 million and a draft pick to get the 30-year-old catcher?
The Astros have also been linked to Athletics catcher Sean Murphy, who in a short time has already been awarded a Gold Glove, but does not quite carry the pedigree that Maldonado and Contreras do.
The Cubs are currently linked to both Christian Vasquez and Sean Murphy, meaning they have likely moved on from Contreras.
With Contreras in the Lineup, the Astros could potentially trot out these nine on Opening Day:
- 2B Jose Altuve
- SS Jeremy Peña
- LF Yordan Alvarez
- 3B Alex Bregman
- DH Willson Contreras
- RF Kyle Tucker
- 1B Jose Abreu
- LF Chas McCormick
- C Martin Maldonado
Although the Astros just lost Justin Verlander, they still possess one of the elite pitching staffs in Major League Baseball, and the addition of a big bat like Willson Contreras could help Houston go back-to-back.