As expected, free agent catcher Willson Contreras rejected the Cubs’ qualifying offer before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline.
By Contreras turning down the offer (a one-year deal worth $19.65 million), the Cubs will receive draft pick compensation in 2023 if he signs elsewhere. The pick would land after Competitive Balance Round B.
But barring something unforeseen in his market, Contreras has played his last game as a Cub. He’s the top free agent catcher this winter and positioned to land a multi-year deal, and the Cubs haven't held extension talks with him in years.
Contreras reflected at the end of the 2022 season on his Cubs tenure while also looking ahead after earning free agency.
“This is a spot that I wanted to be since I was a kid, and I did everything I could to reach free agency,” Contreras said during the Cubs’ final series. “So, it makes me proud.
“At the same time, it makes me a little nostalgic to leave my team. But everything happens for a reason, and I’m ready for whatever comes next.”
Contreras has spent his entire professional career with the Cubs after signing as an international free agent from Venezuela in 2009.
He made his big-league debut in 2016 and started five World Series games that year, quickly emerging as one of the game’s top backstops.
Contreras has started three of the last four All-Star games and ranks third among Cubs catchers all-time in home runs (117), trailing Gabby Hartnett and Jody Davis.
Here’s where he ranks among all catchers in baseball in a few prominent offensive categories since his MLB debut:
-OPS: first (.808)
-wRC+: first (118)
-HR: fifth (104)
Contreras hit .243/.349/.466 with 22 home runs and 55 RBIs in 113 games this past season, with trade rumors swirling around him leading up to the trade deadline as the Cubs shopped him. They had a deal in place with the Astros that was nixed by Houston ownership.
The Astros have interest in Contreras again and met with his representatives at the GM Meetings last week.
With Contreras out, the Cubs’ catching depth chart features Yan Gomes and PJ Higgins, and prospect Miguel Amaya is also on the 40-man roster.
The Cubs figure to explore adding catching depth this winter. Jed Hoyer was asked how he views that spot at the GM Meetings last week.
“It’s a two-way position,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, you want guys who can hit, but it’s a run-prevention position.
“So much of it is game-calling, preparation, feeling strongly about everything that pitchers do is a ‘we’ thing. It’s about teamwork and that collaboration.”