Could we see a Willson Contreras-Joe Maddon reunion in Los Angeles?
According to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are “heavily engaged in the catcher market,” and are having “active conversations with two teams” regarding a trade for a catcher.
Also, #Angels are heavily engaged in the catcher market, have 6-8 options. GM Billy Eppler said they have active conversations with two teams regarding a trade for a catcher.— Maria Torres (@maria_torres3) December 10, 2019
Torres didn’t specifically mention Contreras, but he’s one of several Cubs who have been linked to trade rumors this offseason. The Cubs aren’t looking to enter another all-out rebuild, but they’re keeping the future of the organization in mind following a disappointing 84-win season.
The Cubs farm system has grown barren of impact talent. They’ve struggled to develop big-league starting pitching under team president Theo Epstein. Their payroll is projected to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second straight season, meaning they’d encounter a 30 percent luxury tax on their overages and see their draft position drop 10 spots, should they exceed the $208 million threshold by $40 million or more.
Trading Contreras — who’s projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration next season — won’t solve the financial problem. Cubs fans don't want to see Contreras dealt, but he could net the type of blue-chip prospects the organization desperately needs to replenish their farm system.
Contreras is also under team control through 2022, so there’s not a huge rush to deal the two-time All-Star. But if the Cubs sense he’s unlikely to sign a contract extension now or in the future, they must do their due diligence on him and see what they could acquire in a potential trade. The same is true for Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.
The Angels have one top 100 prospect, (outfielder Jo Adell — No. 5 overall), according to MLB Pipeline, so what Los Angeles could offer the Cubs is questionable. Epstein and Co. won’t trade their backstop for the sake of doing so, especially if they deem any offers to be unsatisfactory.
Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs last season. He’d be a major addition for the Angels, whose catchers posted a combined .221/.293/.344 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. The 27-year-old also has a special bond with former Cubs/current Angels manager Joe Maddon.
Contreras posted a heartfelt good-bye to Maddon on Instagram after the Cubs announced they weren’t retaining the manager for 2020. Contreras later commissioned a painting of he and Maddon as a gift for his former skipper.
Monday, Maddon said it’s “weird” to hear Bryant and Contreras mentioned in trade rumors, adding that he likes both players.
Angels manager Joe Maddon says it’s “weird” to hear that Bryant, Contreras or others could be dealt by Cubs. Maddon: “They’re still going to get better.”— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) December 10, 2019
Asked if he’d like either one, Maddon quipped, “No comment.” Then added, “I like them both.” pic.twitter.com/XFrPwiB8bG
The Angels aren't definitively linked to Contreras and Epstein recently advised to take rumors with a "mouthful of salt." But considering the Angels are reportedly seeking a catching upgrade, it won't be a surprise to see that change soon.