Willson Contreras will have plenty of opportunities to make the Chicago Cubs regret their decision to let him go.
Contreras reached a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, a source confirmed to the Tribune. The Cubs’ National League Central rivals reportedly gave him a five-year, $87.5 million contract to replace retired catcher Yadier Molina. The Cubs will receive a compensatory draft pick because they gave Contreras a qualifying offer.
Since reporting to spring training nine months ago, Contreras often made clear he wanted to remain a Cub for life. A contract extension never materialized, and after testing free agency, Contreras opted to sign within the division. The Cubs will get plenty of looks during the next five years at whether they made the right choice in not retaining the 30-year-old three-time All-Star.
“Willson is a very good competitor,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said Wednesday before the deal was completed. “Earlier we talked about loving winning, and this is a guy that loves to win, who wakes up thinking about it, goes to sleep thinking about it.
“We’ve seen quite a bit across the way, and it’s a guy you don’t want to compete against because you know he’s pretty good. So, yeah, he’s a great competitor and we respect his game.”
Contreras will take on his old team for the first time in a three-game series May 8-10 at Wrigley Field.
He leaves the Cubs as a World Series champion and one of the franchise’s best offensive catchers with a .256/.349/.459 slash line and 115 OPS+ in seven seasons. Contreras slugged 22 home runs in 2022 to become the first Cubs catcher and 17th Cub overall to record at least four 20-homer seasons.
A first-inning grand slam May 16 against the Pittsburgh Pirates was Contreras’ 100th career home run; only two other Cubs catchers, Gabby Hartnett and Jody Davis, previously reached that milestone.