This is the second straight season in which the Cubs’ poor performance has guided the conversation away from actual games and toward the trade deadline and which star(s) will be departing. Willson Contreras has long been the biggest and most obvious option, what with his expiring contract and elite offensive production at a premium position, but the talk has gained weight in the wake of his recent salary settlement.
Contreras and the Cubs settled on a figure of $9.625 million for the 2022 season, midway between where each party had filed, offering the slightest hope that the sides might yet be able to work out an extension. However, there have been no serious overtures to this point, at least not publicly, and there’s a balancing act between the deadline and the Cubs’ target for being competitive once again.
If the latter falls more than a year after the former, Contreras is as good as gone. Some of that has to do with the team’s resultant strategy, as building around a catcher who’ll be entering his age-32 season in ’24 might not be the wisest plan. But that catcher also needs to believe he’s going to have help coming soon, and just with more rookies.
“I want to compete for a playoff spot, and I want to compete for a World Series shot again,” Contreras told the Sun-Times. “And I think for this team to get to the World Series again, it’s going to take the front office putting a lot more pieces together.”