Cubs

Willson Contreras' reunion with fan with Down syndrome will hit you right in the feels

Willson Contreras' reunion with fan with Down syndrome will hit you right in the feels

Daniel Rodriguez must be good luck.

The soon-to-be-10-year-old fan with Down syndrome had a reunion with Willson Contreras before Tuesday afternoon's game against the White Sox at Wrigley Field. Contreras promptly responded with a three-run homer in the first inning, roughly an hour after meeting up with Daniel:

It was Contreras' 16th homer of the season. The distance of all his blasts equals almost 1.2 miles:

Daniel and Contreras have met a couple times before, with the first time coming as part of the Cubs Caravan over the winter. Then came spring training, when Daniel's family was part of a group of nine families Advocate flew down to Mesa, Ariz., to meet and interact with the Cubs. Contreras - who has a nine-year-old cousin with Down syndrome back in Venezuela - remembered Daniel from the Caravan and the two became fast friends.

All nine families got together for a reunion at Wrigley Field Tuesday and surprised Daniel ahead of his 10th birthday on Wednesday.

In addition to the homer, Contreras also gave Daniel batting gloves, a helmet and an official Contreras jersey. The gesture drew applause from fans behind the Cubs dugout, even making some tear up:

Posted by Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, July 25, 2017

After Daniel's reunion with Contreras, all the Advocate families came out onto the field with Clark the Cub and posed for pictures behind home plate:

Selfie time with his dad and Clark:

Unfortunately, one of the kids of the Advocate group wasn't able to make it, as Talia Freund passed away this spring. The Cubs honored her at the end of the three-minute video they played pregame:

Contreras has an event coming up for Special Olympics on Aug. 3:

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.

Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.

The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.

From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.

On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.

Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching for better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.

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Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.

That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).

Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.

However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.

There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto