Thursday, March 23 2023

A beloved institution behind the plate in Chicago is set to replace a franchise icon in St. Louis.

Willson Contreras, the three-time All-Star catcher and the last everyday link to the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 World Series-winning team, is nearing a five-year, $87.5 million agreement with the rival St. Louis Cardinals – where he’ll replace Yadier Molina at catcher.

Contreras and the Cardinals, The Athletic reported Wednesday, were closing in on a deal that the New York Post reported was for five years, marking a significant National League Central makeover.

Contreras, 30, debuted during that 2016 season in which the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, and remained a bedrock of the club even as fellow All-Stars Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez departed via trade as the Cubs opted not to even try retaining any of them.

Willson Contreras has spent the last seven seasons with the Cubs.Willson Contreras has spent the last seven seasons with the Cubs.

Willson Contreras has spent the last seven seasons with the Cubs.

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Now, he will journey south down I-55 to St. Louis, where Molina has held down the catching spot since 2004.

Molina accomplished a few things in that span: Two World Series championships, 10 All-Star Game appearances and nine Gold Glove Awards before retiring alongside fellow Cardinals icon Albert Pujols in October.

Yet the Cardinals are hardly putting a slouch behind the dish.

Contreras has a lifetime .808 OPS and produced one of his best marks – .815, with 22 homers – last season. While not as highly regarded defensively as Molina, who turned 40 this year, Contreras makes the Cardinals younger and more offensively viable.

He also gives them another strong, albeit also right-handed, bat to slot near the middle of the Cardinals order, where NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt and All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado reside.

Meanwhile, Contreras’ signing leaves a significant chip on the trade market. The Cardinals met with Contreras last week but also engaged in significant talks with the Oakland Athletics on Gold Glove catcher Sean Murphy. Murphy, 28, is entering his fourth season, a point at which the A’s often find their best players expendable. Oakland also has two younger replacements at the ready in Shea Langeliers and top prospect Tyler Soderstrom.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Willson Contreras set to replace Cardinals icon Yadier Molina

Source: Yahoo Sports


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