Hoyer: Cubs will make a qualifying offer for Contreras
Confirming what was best expected is a foregone conclusion, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said at Monday’s end-of-season press conference that the team would “definitely” make a qualified offer for a free agent catcher Willson Contreras (Twitter link via Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times). That has been widely assumed since the time when the team surprisingly opted out of the Contreras transaction before the August 2 deadline.
The exact amount in this year’s qualifying offer, set annually at the average of the game’s 125 highest paying players, has yet to be determined. The qualifying offer last year hit $18.4 million, and in 2020 it’s set at $18.9 million.
Any player who declines a qualifying offer will then have to pay for the draft pick, meaning a team that chooses to sign him will have to forgo at least one pick in next year’s draft. (aside from potentially losing resources from their international bounty pool. Teams receiving a revenue share will lose their third-highest pick to sign a “qualified” freelance agent. Teams that don’t share in revenue, pay non-luxury taxes will lose second-highest picks and $500k in international total prize space.Those six teams paid luxury taxes this year – Mets, Dodgers, Yankees , Phillies, Red Sox, Padres – will lose their second- and fifth-highest picks as well as $1 million in international pool space, while the Cubs will receive their prize money midway through the B Competitive Balance Round. and Round 3 of next summer’s draft – usually in the 75th overall range.
The Cubs will still have the rest of this month and an exclusive five-day deadline to negotiate with Contreras after completing the World Series (as all teams do with their pending free agents) . That said, Contreras, who will be May 31 next year, has spoken of his desire to stay in Chicago for a few years now. No extensions are implemented.
In all likelihood, Contreras will enter the open market and sign for a new club – perhaps one looking for more offense behind the plate. That’s not to disparage Contreras’ glove; he boasts extra arm strength and one of the fastest bounce times in the MLB (1.93 seconds, per Statcast, good for 11th out of 83 catchers in 2022). Contreras, however, typically scores mid to below average for frame throws, and the Baseball Prospectus scored him a bit in 2022 for his job blocking pitches in the dirt. (although that’s an anomaly and he’s generally rated better than average in that respect).
Broadly speaking, Contreras is not a responsibility behind the board, especially when it comes to controlling the running game. He doesn’t score well when it comes to stealing shots for his pitcher (and to make sure border shots are called correctly), but he’s still a quality pick behind. after the dish – especially considering that some colleagues in his position might be a good fit for him working with bats. Contreras hit .243/.349/.466 with 22 home runs, 23 doubles and one triple in 2022.
Contreras’ 132 wRC+, which sees him 32% better than the league’s average record player, is fifth among 70 catchers with at least 100 appearances in 2022, just slightly behind Adley Rutschman (133) and Tyler Stephenson (134) ranks third on the list behind Contreras’ brother, William, and Toronto Danny Jansen. Given that the average catcher is 11% worse than the league’s average catcher, Contreras is about 43% better at catching the ball than the average save, on wRC+. The only predators that make more pruning knives than Contreras are Cal Raleigh, Will Smith and Salvador Perez.
Exactly where Contreras set foot in free agency is, at this point, anyone’s guess. He won’t know how things will turn out until he gauges interest around the league, but there’s no shortage of teams that could look to upgrade behind the board. Only seven teams – the Braves, Jays, Phillies, A’s, Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners – received a better offense than the league’s average offensive player from their starting XI in their lineups. this season, so even with draft compensation attached, Contreras should still command a strong multi-year deal.