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Updating the Willson Contreras Trade Proposal

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The longtime Cubs’ backstop is one year shy of free agency. Here’s what is may take for the Marlins to acquire him.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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+.

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).

OPS+ leaders among catchers, 2016-2021 (min. 300 G at C)
Stathead

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 13 innings in the corner outfield positions, as well as 51 13 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.

Proposed Trade

Hypothetical Willson Contreras to Miami trade structure
Baseball Trade Values

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.

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.

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.

Poll

Which team would get the better end of this trade?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Cubs
    (113 votes)
  • 53%
    Marlins
    (276 votes)
  • 24%
    It’s fair
    (126 votes)
515 votes total Vote Now