The St. Louis Cardinals found their replacement for now-retired catcher Yadier Molina, agreeing to terms with Willson Contreras on a five-year, $87 million deal. After refusing to move Contreras at the trade deadline, or pay him, the last remaining position player from the Chicago Cubs World Series team will now don the birds on bats and Cardinal red.
The move is a massive get for the Cardinals, who were content with Molina’s offense-behind-the-plate tradeoff, despite the team’s bats providing three runs in two postseason games — both losses to Philadelphia. Albert Pujols’ swan song really is what won them the NL Central, and they’ll have to replace his production, as well.
Considering Contreras’ best year was barely better than Pujols’ final campaign, another bat — preferably a DH — would go a long way. The farm system continues to put guys in the lineup who look like potential all-stars, only to hit nothing but a wall once opposing pitching staffs get a scouting report.
That’s another factor in this. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt have been far and away the team’s best position players since arriving in St. Louis, and it continues the trend of the farm system failing to develop consistent supporting players. Save for the pandemic season, some combination of Arenado, Goldschmidt, or Marcel Ozuna have been the top two on the team in RBI.
The failures of Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Paul DeJong, and others don’t give St. Louis fans a lot of hope for Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman ever reaching their 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.