The St. Louis Cardinals are bringing in a catcher they know well to replace Yadier Molina. Willson Contreras reportedly signed a five-year, $87.5 million deal to join the Cardinals on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Contreras spent the last seven seasons with one of the Cardinals’ biggest rivals, the Chicago Cubs. With Chicago, Contreras put up a .256/.349/.466 career slash line. He made three All-Star teams with the Cubs.
Catcher Willson Contreras and the St. Louis Cardinals are in agreement on a five-year, $87.5 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 7, 2022
Contreras, 30, joins St. Louis after Molina retired in November. Molina spent 19 seasons in the majors, all with the Cardinals. He was a 10-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove winner and helped lead the Cardinals to two World Series titles. He’ll garner plenty of Hall of Fame support once he’s eligible. Molina hit .214/.233/.302 in his final season with St. Louis.
Contreras represents a massive upgrade over Molina’s recent production at the plate. Last season, Contreras hit .243./349/.466, with 22 home runs. After some strong batting averages early in his career, Contreras has settled in as a .241 hitter the past three seasons. He makes up for that average with strong walk rates and is usually a good bet to hit at least 20 home runs per year.
Cardinals aiming for World Series title after winning division in 2022
The move should ensure the Cardinals remain a force in the NL Central. The team won the division in 2022 thanks to excellent performances from Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado at the plate. Cardinals legend Albert Pujols also helped in a big way, clubbing 24 home runs during a surprising comeback season.
Adding Contreras, one of the league’s top catchers, should ensure the offense stays strong. The rotation may need another arm, especially after Jose Quintana signed a two-year deal with the New York Mets on Wednesday.
Even without other additions, the Cardinals should be considered a strong contender in the NL Central in 2023. The Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals’ biggest competition the past couple seasons, have sent signals the team is retooling. The Cubs, however, are making bold moves after finishing 74-88.
That could set up a scenario where Contreras once again finds himself in the middle of a division race between the Cardinals and Cubs. This time, though, he’ll be on the opposite side of that rivalry.