Willson Contreras has spent his entire career with the Chicago Cubs, prior to hitting free agency as the top starting catcher on the market. The 30-year-old made his third All-Star appearance in 2022, hitting .243/.349/.466, with 22 home runs and a 132 wRC+.
The Cubs failed to deal Contreras at the deadline and now watch him leave them for a division rival, as the Cardinals have signed the backstop to a five-year, $87.5 million deal.
This is the first time in a long time that the Cardinals have been in the market for a starting catcher, as Yadier Molina held that title for the better part of two decades. Now they respond to his retirement by signing the top catcher available.
Not a great pitch-framer, Contreras isn’t known for his glove behind the dish, but he does have a strong arm to control the running game. While this is absolutely a step-back defensively from Molina, Contreras is 10 years younger and a huge upgrade offensively.
Over the last six seasons as the Cubs starting catcher, Contreras was an All-Star three times (2018, 2019, and 2022) and posted four 20-home run seasons. Among catchers with at least 1,500 plate appearances during that span, Contreras’ 117 wRC+ is the best mark in baseball.
The Cardinals still likely need to make some moves to shore up their starting rotation and maybe even their infield depth, but for now, Contreras represents a great addition for a team that is sure to be a contender again in 2023.