To simply say that “the Miami Marlins need a catcher” would be criminally underselling it. In 2021, their backstops slashed a combined .212/.267/.319, enough for a 63 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) where 100 represents league average. That ranked 28th out of the 30 MLB teams.
Jorge Alfaro, the team’s primary starter since 2019, hit to the tune of a 73 wRC+ in a season where he only drew 11 walks against 99 strikeouts. Sandy León, while deservedly lauded for his work with the pitching staff, hit just .183 and finished with a 42 wRC+. Nick Fortes, Payton Henry and Alex Jackson could contend for the backup catcher role, though they’d be miscast as major league regulars. Top catching prospect Joe Mack (#8 on MLB Pipeline’s Marlins list) still has several years of development ahead of him.
In the absence of internal solutions, Miami must be diligent in their efforts to acquire an impact backstop should they aim to contend in the head-scratching NL East in 2022. Thus, here we are revisiting the idea of acquiring longtime Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.
Coming off a year where he only hit .237, Contreras submitted his claim to being the crosstown lite version of Yasmani Grandal, posting a .340 OBP while hitting 21 home runs, finishing with a 109 wRC+.
Statcast has this Willson Contreras blast at 491 feet pic.twitter.com/YjjaEvXP5Y— Starting 9 (@Starting9) April 27, 2021
Contreras broke through to the Majors in 2016. Since then, among the 36 catchers with at least 300 games played, he ranks 5th in adjusted OPS+, trailing only former Miami and current Phillies backstop J.T. Realmuto in rWAR (20.8 to Contreras’ 16.9).
Defensively, 2021 proved a career year for Contreras, tying a season-best 1.8 dWAR and setting a new personal best with 8 defensive runs saved. He is among the more athletic backstops in the sport, logging 236 1⁄3 innings in the corner outfield positions, as well as 51 1⁄3 innings worth of time at first base.
The question now is what it will cost to acquire the 30-year-old’s services.
The answer? Not as much as one might initially expect considering Contreras is set to hit free agency following the 2022 season.
- Miami gets C Willson Contreras
- Chicago gets 1B/OF/DH Garrett Cooper, INF Ian Lewis, OF Brian Miller, P Braxton Garrett
Why It Makes Sense?
According to Baseball Trade Values, Contreras currently has a median surplus value of $14.0 million. The proposed return here has a median value of 14.3. As is the case in most trades, cerebral-minded front office personnel will note their intent of receiving equal value in return for established big leaguers being dealt.
Chicago appears to be the early stages of a rebuild following a period of five playoff appearances in seven seasons and a curse-breaking World Series title. Acquiring a mix of young, controllable pieces as well as the veteran in Cooper make the trade worth giving some thought to.
While injuries present a major red flag for Cooper, when on the field, the 30-year-old has quietly been a productive offensive player, slashing .283/.354/.453 over 887 plate appearances. Limited to just 71 games in 2021, Cooper posted a career-best .380 OBP, slugging .465.
Should the DH become universal come 2022, Cooper could benefit healthwise from the occasional start at the position, though he has proven an adequate defensive first baseman in the past.
While quite possibly a fourth outfielder, Miller owns a modest .338 OBP in 418 career minor league games. He makes the most of his times on base, as indicated by his 119 career stolen bases. Miller earned a late-season cup of coffee with Miami this past year and still has six full years of club control ahead of him.
Brian Miller singles to RF for his first career hit! pic.twitter.com/NMxyGsU55t— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 31, 2021
The inclusion of Garrett here comes as a combination of inconsistency and sheer lack of a roster spot for him. The soft-tossing left-hander owns a 5.18 ERA over 10 career appearances at the big league level. Constant shuttling between AAA and the Majors hasn’t done him any favors, though.
Braxton Garrett, Wicked Curveballs. pic.twitter.com/yISuw50Em2— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 13, 2020
At this point, the hope is to see Garrett every fifth day, even if it isn’t in Miami.
Then there’s Lewis, whose prospect stock has soared following a great summer in rookie ball. The Bahamian infielder produced far better batted ball quality than you’d suspect from his small stature (.302/.354/.497 slash line in 161 PA). He turns 19 in February.
Which team would get the better end of this trade?
This poll is closed