Per reports, (Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic & Jeff Passan of ESPN) the St. Louis Cardinals have signed free agent catcher Willson Contreras to a 5-yr contract worth $87.5M. ($17.5M AAV).
Contreras (who turns 31 in May), is a huge get for the Cardinals, as the front office had announced upgrading at catcher to be a top priority this offseason. With Yadier Molina’s retirement and Andrew Knizner profiled more as a backup catcher, St. Louis now has their guy behind the plate for the next five seasons.
In 2022, Contreras slashed .243/.349/.466 with 22 HR & 55 RBI. He also compiled a 128 OPS+ in 113 games last season for Chicago, and earned his 3rd career All-Star nomination in his walk year.
Contreras was also the only free agent catcher with draft pick compensation attached to him after the Cubs gave him a qualifying offer, yet this didn’t keep the Cardinals from pursuing him.
Some may find it concerning that Contreras only played 72 of his 113 games last season behind the plate, while being the DH in the other 39, but one could also argue that in doing so prevented the wear & tear of catching 162 while still allowing his bat to be in the lineup.
The Cardinals will more than likely rely on him to catch more games than that this season, but it’s not unreasonable to think Contreras remains one of MLB’s top hitting catchers for years to come and that after a few seasons could end up platooning with prospect Ivan Herrera as the latter of the two gets more MLB-ready.
In signing Contreras, the Cardinals get a reliable catcher, an added boost to their offense & someone who is very familiar with the NLC division. They also didn’t have to part with a high prospect package to acquire the likes of A’s catcher Sean Murphy.
It was previously rumored that the Cardinals original offer was for 3 years, but it ultimately took the length of contract reaching 5 (not necessarily the dollar amount) to get the deal done.
Contreras will have some big shoes to fill in taking over fur future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina, who retired at the end of 2022 and has been the starting St. Louis Cardinals catcher the past two decades.
Welcome to the STL, Willson!