Louis Cardinals have found a replacement for now-retired catcher Yadier Molina, agreeing terms with Willson Contreras on 5-year contract worth $87 million. After refusing to move Contreras on the trade deadline or pay him, the last remaining player on the Chicago Cubs World Series team will now wear the birds on the bat and the Red Cardinals.
The move is a huge boon for the Cardinals, who are happy with Molina’s post-disc offense trade-off, even though the team’s bats have run three times in two post-season games – both both lost to Philadelphia. Albert Pujols’ swan song is actually what won them NL Central, and they’ll have to replace his production, too.
Considering Contreras’ best year isn’t nearly as good as Pujols’ last campaign, another bat – preferably a DH – will go a long way. The farm system continued to put potential all-stars into the lineup, only to hit nothing but the wall when the opposing pitchers received scouting reports.
That’s another factor in this. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt have increasingly become the team’s best-placed players since arriving in St. Louis, and it continues the trend of the farm system failing to develop consistent support players. Outside of the pandemic season, some combination of Arenado, Goldschmidt or Marcel Ozuna has become the top two of the team at the RBI.
The failure of Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Paul DeJong and others did not bring St. Louis has high hopes that Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman will reach their full potential.
Poor development also might be why hitting coach Jeff Albert stepped down after the season. Well, that and Harrison Bader smacking a bajillion postseason home runs after being traded to the Yankees, and Kolten Wong finding some semblance of consistency in Milwaukee.
Contreras is a proven contributor who will come into a clubhouse with solid leadership at the top, and should be able to continue his form regardless of hitting coach, as was the case for Arenado or Goldschmidt.
The fact that he comes over from the Cardinals’ most hated rival is just an added bonus. In 95 career games against St. Louis, Contreras slashed .249/.368/.441, with 74 hits, 15 of them homers, and 47 RBI. Those numbers aren’t mind-blowing, but every big home run feels like five against a loathsome rival.
I’d say it makes up for Jason Heyward jumping ship from St. Louis to Chicago in 2016, but Jason Heyward and his contract made up for Jason Heyward jumping ship. For the Cubs, $87 million doesn’t seem like much, seeing as they just paid $68 million for Jameson Taillon, a backend starting pitcher in an already crowded rotation.
Chicago did land Cody Bellinger on a one-year, free-demo deal, though, and is rumored to be medium-sized game hunting with sights set on Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson. Who knows how the Contreras saga would’ve fallen if the Cubs moved him at the deadline, as rumor had it, but inaction and tight pockets from the front office led to this regrettable outcome. They didn’t even appease the prospect perverts by moving him for scraps.
Contreras could’ve still ended up in the shadow of the Arch by way of another club, and Chicago could’ve avoided culpability, yet here we are.