As the calendar soon turns to June for the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball, teams will start to review their roster in anticipation of the Major League Baseball trade deadline on August 2.
The Cubs were the talk of the trade deadline during the 2021 Major League Baseball regular season as the team traded away core players Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez in an attempt to reconstruct their minor league system with high-ceiling prospects.
Since those trades for the Cubs, it has been unclear as to what the team’s direction is. Cubs’ president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has been adamant that the team is not in the process of a full rebuilt but the Major League product on the field would suggest otherwise.
Though, there have been signs that Hoyer wants the Cubs to contend sooner as opposed to later. The signs occurred this past offseason when the Cubs signed veteran starting pitcher Marcus Stroman to a three-year contract, Seiya Suzuki to a lucrative five-year contract, and pursued free agent shortstop Carlos Correa. Those are moves that would seem to suggest that Hoyer envisions the Cubs contending by as early as next season.
Hoyer’s true intentions will become known at the trade deadline this season. Catcher Willson Contreras is the biggest trade chip that the team has and the decision that the Cubs make in regards to a potential Contreras trade will identify the true direction of the team.
There is no more important player on the Chicago Cubs roster this season than catcher Willson Contreras and the team has a decision to make.
If the Cubs truly do intend to contend as early as the 2023 season, then trading Contreras does not make particular sense. The universal designated hitter rule now allows the Cubs to keep Contreras’ bat in the lineup on a regular basis and should ease the offensive aging of a catcher past the age of 30. Yan Gomes is under contract for next season but a contending team would be better served to have Contreras as their starting catcher as opposed to Gomes. Besides, the designated hitter would allow the Cubs to have both catchers in the lineup especially when they are facing a left-handed starting pitcher.
Trading Contreras would certainly suggest that the Cubs are still emphasizing building the minor league system as opposed to the Major League team. Last season seemingly proved the change in philosophy that teams have when trading prospects. No longer are teams willing to trade Major League ready prospects in exchange for rental players. That is why it seems highly unlikely that a trade of Contreras would be aligned with any intention of the Cubs contending in 2023.
Contreras, for his part, is having a terrific start to the season. Contreras currently has an offensive clip of .258 / .382 / .458 / .840 this season to go along with 5 home runs and 14 RBIs. There is no question that the focus will continue to be on Contreras as the Cubs continue to play out the 2022 season with an eye on 2023 and the future.