The Athletic

Cardinals sign Willson Contreras to a 5-year deal

Free agent catcher Willson Contreras signs a five-year contract with the Cardinals, a league source confirmed to Athleticism Wednesday. AthleticismKen Rosenthal first announced the Cardinals are reaching a deal with Contreras and ESPN’s Jeff Passan first announced the terms of the $87.5 million deal, which is pending review physical. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Contreras signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cubs in July 2009 and was promoted to the major league team in 2016.
  • He was the only active position player remaining on Chicago’s 2016 World Series roster at the end of last season.
  • Contreras turned down the Cubs’ qualifying offer on November 15 and headed for free agency. Chicago will get a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B.
  • Contreras’ contract is the biggest free agent deal the Cardinals have ever signed for a player who hasn’t previously played for the club.

Screening report

Contreras spent all seven years of his career with the Chicago Cubs and was widely considered the best free agent on the capture market. All-Star for the Cubs in 2022, Contreras had just completed a 30-year season in which he hit .243/.349/.466 with 22 homers.

“I’m in a place I’ve dreamed of being, it’s a place I’ve wanted to be (in) since I was a kid,” Contreras previously said. “I did everything I could to achieve free agency. So that makes me proud. At the same time, it makes me feel a bit nostalgic to leave my team. But everything happens for a reason.

Contreras may not be a perfect receiver; he may not thrive in the soft factors of the game and be the perfect game planner. But there are few receivers who can boast of catching a veteran-laden staff at a World Series as a rookie. Let alone those who can deliver the type of offense Contreras just did last season when he delivered a 132 wRC+ and hit 20-plus homers for the fourth time in his career. Contreras works hard, has impressive energy and the fans seem to gravitate towards him.

“The fans appreciate how hard I work,” he said. “I’m a guy who gives 100% and they see the effort.”

How Contreras Fits In With The Cardinals

For the Cardinals, the signing of Contreras meets two glaring needs. They filled the void left by Yadier Molina, who retired at the end of the 2022 season, with one of baseball’s most productive offensive receivers. The Cardinals have also bolstered their core order — an area the front office has identified as a need — with Contreras likely to come in behind 2022 National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.

During a Tuesday afternoon media briefing, manager Oli Marmol expanded on previous meetings he’s had with Contreras and Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, describing Contreras as a “really good competitor.”

“We talked about loving winning and he’s a guy who loves winning,” Marmol said. “He wakes up thinking about it and goes to sleep thinking about it. We’ve seen that quite a bit from the opposite side.

On Monday, Mozeliak expressed optimism that the Cardinals would leave San Diego with a long-term starting receiver in place. As the winter fixtures prepare to wind down, he’ll do just that, as he got a better free agent from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. — woo

Who are the cardinals in Contreras?

Someone who will focus their energy on proving the Cubs wrong. This side of Contreras’ edgy personality should help create an instant bond with Cardinals fans, adding juice to a rivalry that dates back to 1892. A less accomplished receiver might be intimidated by the idea of ​​replacing Molina in St. Louis . But Contreras’ unshakable confidence in his abilities carried him through eight-season games in the minors before making his major league debut, helped the Cubs end a 108-year championship drought and l finally convinced him to bet on himself as a free agent.

It will obviously take time to learn a different system and develop relationships with new pitchers. The challenge of doing that midway through the season contributed to what Cubs officials described as a “lukewarm” market for Contreras’ services at this year’s trade deadline. Contreras doesn’t have the greatest reputation as a defensive receiver, but he makes up for that with a strong arm, the ability to control the run game and block shots in the dirt, a career OPS of over .800 and a desire to supervise the players. from Latin America. — Mooney

How will the Cubs replace Contreras?

All along, the Cubs prepared for this eventuality, operating as if they needed to find a new receiver to partner with Yan Gomes. To name a few, the Cubs met with Christian Vázquez, did groundwork on Omar Narváez and discussed Tucker Barnhart. Seeing Contreras in a Cardinals uniform will be shocking at first, but this split from a local All-Star player didn’t exactly catch the team off guard.

President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer thought he had a trade-delay deal for Contreras with the Astros — until Houston owner Jim Crane canceled since-fired GM James Click and opposed his veto this decision. That last-minute upset crushed Hoyer’s influence and forced the Cubs to settle for a draft pick in place of pitcher Jose Urquidy. This did not change the organization’s thinking on how the position should be evaluated in the future. The Cubs want a defensive receiver. — Mooney

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(Photo: David Banks/USA Today)

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