Willson Contreras is officially hitting the open market. The star catcher has elected MLB free agency after choosing to decline the $19.6 million qualifying offer extended by the Chicago Cubs.
The fact that the 30-year-old was in a position to receive a qualifying offer in the first place is surprising. Subject to trade rumors for most of the season, Contreras had heavy links with the New York Mets.
After the Houston Astros won the World Series, it came to light that the Cubs almost traded Contreras to Houston. However, Astros ownership rejected the deal, and the 30-year-old remained with the Cubs.
Contreras is now living the dream of every player in the league. He gets to pick where he wants to spend the next chapter of his career, and he certainly will have his pick of the litter.
With no further delay, here are the three best options for Willson Contreras in MLB free agency.
3 best destinations for Willson Contreras in MLB free agency
3) Detroit Tigers
The Tigers seem to be gearing up for a busy and active offseason. They’ve been connected to a number of players all over the diamond. Detroit is examining trades and free-agent moves alike.
One of those moves is signing Contreras, as Jon Morosi reported to MLB Network on Wednesday. A move for the 30-year-old certainly makes some sense for Detroit.
The obvious motivator is new Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris. Harris spent years in the Cubs organization as assistant general manager. Few executives around the league know Contreras better than him.
Another Tiger who knows the 30-year-old backstop quite well is shortstop Javier Baez. Baez signed a six-year contract with the Tigers before last season’s lockout. Prior to that, he was with the Cubs from 2014 to the 2021 trade deadline.
However, that familiarity isn’t the only reason Detroit is interested. The team hasn’t had a long-term solution behind the plate since Alex Avila’s first stint with the team from 2009 to 2015.
Detroit has catching talent in its pipeline, but they aren’t major league ready. And they certainly aren’t going to play like one of the league’s best out of the gate.
The Tigers have the financial capability to offer the star catcher whatever he wants. Whether Detroit is a true contender for his services boils down to whether Contreras believes the team can contend relatively soon.
Regardless, he would step into Detroit as the clear everyday catcher and one of the team’s best players. Keep an eye on the Tigers not only in these sweepstakes but the entire winter.
2) Boston Red Sox
It’s an interesting idea considering who the Astros acquired once the deal for Contreras was nixed. The Astros acquired Christian Vasquez from the Red Sox at the trade deadline.
The Red Sox sought a shake-up behind the plate amid a disappointing season. They traded Vasquez and acquired Reese McGuire from the Chicago White Sox shortly thereafter.
Boston also had a lot of interest in Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy at the deadline. The catcher was a position the team felt needed change. So why not go out and get one of the league’s best?
The Red Sox see major pieces hit the free agent market on Thursday. J.D Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi’s contracts are expiring, and Xander Bogaerts joins a star-studded shortstop class after opting out.
Boston wants to contend, but they’ll need to make a splash to do so. That’s where Contreras comes in. He fills a position the Red Sox clearly want to upgrade, and he’s a star who can aid in their return to the playoffs.
Unless Boston wants to embrace a rebuild, they need to replenish the high-end talent on the team. Contreras doesn’t solve everything, but he is a major benefit to the team no matter what.
1) Houston Astros
The Astros clearly had an interest in Contreras. It just wasn’t the right time for the trade in their eyes. Rejecting the trade wasn’t about rejecting Contreras. It was about how highly they valued the return player in the deal, pitcher Jose Urquidy.
Now, the Astros have a chance to acquire Contreras without giving up anything but draft-pick compensation. And they are interested in renewing their pursuit, according to Jon Morosi.
Houston loves Martin Maldonado, and he has provided solid play behind the plate. However, if the Astros want to repeat as World Series champions, adding a bat the quality of Contreras serves them well.
Houston can offer the 30-year-old backstop pretty much everything he may want. A good payday, an everyday job, and an important role on a championship-quality team ready to keep the momentum going.
There will be a ton of teams interested in Contreras throughout the winter. However, there is no better option for the star backstop than the new World Series champions.