San Diego Padres

Padres connected to Willson Contreras, but asking price is 'absurd'

Padres connected to Willson Contreras, but asking price is 'absurd'

If the Cubs trade any of their core position players this offseason, the expectation is they'll receive top-of-the-line prospects and/or controllable, impact big-league players in return.

Tuesday, ESPN's Jeff Passan appeared on NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan's radio show — Kap & Company. According to Passan, the Padres have been connected to Willson Contreras, but the Cubs' asking price for the catcher is a current hold up.

"San Diego wants Willson Contreras. Talk to San Diego, the ask is absurd," Passan said. "The ask should be absurd right now."

The Padres are looking to add a starting catcher and have one of MLB's top farm systems. They'd be a solid trade partner for Contreras, but the Cubs aren't going to trade him if they deem the return package to be inadequate.

From the Cubs' perspective, it makes sense to ask for an "absurd" package for Contreras. He's 27, a back-to-back All-Star starter, under contract through 2022 and only projected to make $4.5 million next season.

The Cubs don't need to deal Contreras this winter, but they'd be foolish not to listen to any inquiries for him — or any of their core players. They can always say no, but there's the chance they get blown away by an offer, too. 

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Padres looking to add starting catcher and Willson Contreras could be a fit

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USA TODAY

Padres looking to add starting catcher and Willson Contreras could be a fit

If the Cubs decide to shop catcher Willson Contreras, a suitor for the two-time All-Star could emerge out west.

Sunday, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the Padres seek a starting catcher. Whether that leads them to Contreras is to be seen, but San Diego makes a ton of sense as a trade partner for the Cubs backstop.

Padres starter Austin Hedges (22 Defensive Runs Saved in 2019) is a superior defensive catcher to Contreras (-1), though the latter would be an offensive upgrade for San Diego. Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 homers and 64 RBIs last season, while Hedges hit .176/.252/.311 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs. Padres catchers combined to hit .212/.278/.349 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs.

The Padres hold one of the top farm systems in baseball, a group featuring five top 100 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. The Cubs have two top 100 prospects — infielder Nico Hoerner (No. 47) and catcher Miguel Amaya (No. 90) — but they need to replenish their system after years of making win-now trades and struggling to develop homegrown talent the past few seasons.

At last month’s GM Meetings, Padres general manager A.J. Preller admitted the organization is open to trading its prospects to help build a championship-contending team. Preller defended that notion last week by sending infielder Xavier Edwards (MLB Pipeline’s No. 72 prospect) to the Rays to acquire outfielder Tommy Pham.

"You get tied to these players," Preller said in November. "And you should. You envision each of these guys playing with the Padres, and you have history with them. But you've got to understand at the end of the day, it's about building a championship-level team at the big-league level.

“If you do it the right way, you have multiples at different spots. Not everybody is going to be able to play for the Padres."

Lefty starter Mackenzie Gore is San Diego’s No. 1 prospect (No. 4 overall in MLB), but he’ll be off limits in any trade talks. Behind Gore, the other Padres prospects in MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list are:

-Outfielder Taylor Trammell (No. 28)
-Right-handed starter Luis Patino (No. 30)
-Shortstop CJ Abrams (No. 45)
-Catcher Luis Campusano (No. 86)

The Cubs are searching for a center field upgrade this offseason and have struggled to develop impact big-league starting pitching under Theo Epstein. After trading Edwards, the Padres may not want to deal more than one of the aforementioned four prospects in a single deal, but Trammell or Patino would be a major addition for the Cubs.

Trammell, 22, hit .234/.340/.349 in Double-A with the Reds and Padres in 2019. He projects as a corner outfielder but has the speed to play center. Patino posted a 2.57 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) in high-A and Double-A in 2019.

Adding any blue-chip prospects — regardless of position — should be the Cubs’ goal. Javier Báez is entrenched at shortstop, but if the Cubs were able to acquire Abrams, they can figure out how the 19-year-old fits defensively when the time comes. Abrams was the No. 6 overall draft pick last season and slashed .393/.436/.647 between rookie ball and low-A.

A Contreras trade could also include big league players. The Padres have 24-year-old catcher Francisco Mejía — .265/.316/.438, 8 homers, 22 RBIs, 0 DRS in 79 games last season — on their depth chart and he could be expendable in a Contreras trade.

The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to move Contreras. He’s under team control through 2022 and is only projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration in 2020. Plus. they don't get better in the immediate future by dealing him.

But if the Cubs look to move Contreras to replenish their farm system, the Padres make a ton of sense as trade partner.

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Brewers make big trade, acquire former Padres top prospect Luís Urias

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USA TODAY

Brewers make big trade, acquire former Padres top prospect Luís Urias

The Brewers and Padres have made a big trade.

Wednesday, the Brewers acquired infielder Luís Urias and starter Eric Lauer from the Padres in exchange for starter Zach Davies and outfielder Trent Grisham.

Urias is the key to the deal for the Brewers. The 22-year-old holds a career .308/.397/.433 (.830 OPS) slash line in six minor league seasons and entered 2019 as the No. 16 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.

That success hasn’t translated to the big leagues yet — Urias holds a .221/.318/.331 (.649 OPS) line in 83 career games, 71 of which came in 2019. This is an incredibly small sample size, however, and moving out of pitcher-friendly Petco Park will bode well for Urias.

Urias can play shortstop and second base, but he will play the former with the Brewers. Keston Hiura — .303/.368/.570 (.938 OPS), 19 home runs in 2019 — will continue manning second for Milwaukee. If he continues to hit, and Urias hits like he did in the minor leagues, the Brewers will have one formidable middle infield combination for the foreseeable future. The Brewers are hoping Urias will be an upgrade over Orlando Arcia — .223/.283/.350 (.633 OPS), 14 errors in 2019 — both offensively and defensively.

Trading away Davies is curious. The right-hander posted a 3.55 ERA in 31 starts in 2019, leading the Brewers with 155 2/3 innings pitched. The Brewers rotation has been their biggest weakness in recent seasons, and Davies was a mainstay in that group since 2016.

Davies is arbitration eligible through 2021, while Lauer is eligible through 2024. The latter holds a 2.93 ERA in 37 games (36 starts) across three minor league seasons. He holds a 4.40 ERA in 53 games (52 starts) in two big-league campaigns.

Grisham is infamous for making a key error in the 2019 NL Wild Card Game. He misplayed a single in right field with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, allowing three Nationals to score. Washington took a 4-3 lead — the game’s final score.

Grisham can play all three outfield spots and combined to hit 32 home runs in 2019 (six in MLB). He was the Brewers’ fourth outfielder but will have an opportunity to start with the Padres.

In other news, the Padres signed former Brewers swingman Drew Pomeranz, according to Rosenthal. The left-hander joined the Brewers from the Giants at the trade deadline and posted a 2.39 ERA in 25 games (one start). MLB Insider Robert Murray reported that the deal is four years and worth $34 million.

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