The St. Louis Cardinals agreed to terms with catcher Willson Contreras on a 5-year, $87.5M dollar contract. The deal provides St. Louis with a replacement for recently retired backstop Yadier Molina. It also will upset Chicago Cubs fans given the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry in the NL Central.
At 30-years old, there is some risk involved with this 5-year deal. Without further ado, let’s grade the Willson Contreras-Cardinals contract.
Willson Contreras is a 30-year old catcher who features no shortage of power from the catcher position. In fact, he’s blasted at least 20 home runs in 4 of his 7 career seasons, per Baseball Reference. But Contreras is more than just a power hitter.
He maintains a fairly decent average for a backstop. Many catchers in the modern game are defensive-only players. As a result, their offense tends to suffer in a major way. It is not surprising to see teams with starting catchers that have batting averages hovering around the Mendoza line.
Meanwhile, Willson Contreras has never posted a batting average worse than .237. For his career, he’s hitting .256. And yes, batting average doesn’t hold the same amount of weight as it once did. But it is telling of a hitter’s ability to make things happen at the plate.
Contreras’ strong hitting prowess makes him a DH/1B candidate. If his knees give out as he ages, the Cardinals would still feel comfortable keeping his bat in the lineup.
Willson Contreras’ defense isn’t spectacular. But he is a capable defensive catcher. He may not offer elite defensive ability like Yadier Molina, but St. Louis is confident he will hold his own behind the dish.
The Cardinals understood that replacing Yadier Molina was of the utmost importance. He was a leader on the team for many years, and finding someone to fill his shoes was never going to be a simple task. Additionally, Molina and Albert Pujols were fan-favorites.
St. Louis considered alternative options in players such as Sean Murphy and Christian Vasquez. And the truth is that either of those players would have been quality fits. But the Cardinals’ organization believes in leadership and franchise players. And Willson Contreras fits the bill in those categories.
Contreras demonstrated leadership ability during his time in Chicago with the Cubs. And with 5 years on his deal, the Cardinals expect him to step up and be a franchise player alongside Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt.
As aforementioned, offering a 30-year old catcher a multi-year contract represents risk. But they chose the right catcher in this scenario.
The Cardinals expect to be in the playoff conversation for years to come. They’ve done an impressive job of signing franchise players to anchor down the team in Goldschmidt and Arenado. And now the same can be said for Willson Contreras.
However, this signing will not be receiving an A+ purely because a 5-year deal with a catcher is a risky proposition. It is rare to find backstops like Yadier Molina who play into their late 30’s.
But in the end, Contreras is going to fit right into the middle of the lineup. His pure power ability will lead to an offensive boost for the team. And as long as he maintains steady defense, Contreras will prove to be a plus-addition for St. Louis.
Final Cardinals’ Willson Contreras contract grade: A-