According to multiple reports, the Cardinals have their catcher.
They have agreed to terms with former C All-Star Willson Contreras.
Wilson Contreras and Cardinals have done deal— Mike Rodriguez (@mikedeportes) December 7, 2022
Willson Contreras is heading to #Cardinals. https://t.co/BXmiFQu4mm— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) December 7, 2022
Contreras is coming off a career year, where he produced 3.3 fWAR in 487 PAs. He produced a career-best 132 wRC+ and knocked 22 homers with a .243/.349/.466 slash line.
That production, though, did not come exclusively from the catcher position. Contreras only caught 72 games last season. He only caught 112 in ‘21. Contreras has only caught over 100 games twice in his career.
Recent reports have indicated that the Cardinals are transitioning away from the model they had with Yadier Molina, where the future Hall of Famer frequently led the league in catcher usage.
Presumably, the Cardinals would like about a 100/60 split between Contreras and Knizner, with Contreras potentially filling the DH spot when not behind the plate.
That limited time behind the plate and his mediocre defensive profile have limited Contreras’ fWAR potential. Contreras’ high came last year at 3.3 fWAR. His next best season is just 2.6 fWAR. Steamer projects him for 3.1 fWAR next season, but that projection would require him to match the highest PA total of his career (543).
Contreras seems like a safe bet for 2.5 fWAR over 450 PAs.
The Cardinals, though, are paying a premium for that level of production. Contract details are not out yet, but considering the way the market has gone, it’s likely that the deal would take the team up to 5 years and around $100M.
*** Contract information
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
The Cardinals and a Willson Contreras are close on a 5-year deal. Yadier replacement.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 7, 2022
That fits with the report from yesterday that Contreras had received a 5-year offer from the Cardinals and the Astros.
The $87.5M figure spread over 5 years probably bought the Cardinals a little less in annual value at the expense of another year of control.
From a budget perspective, it essentially pushes the Cardinals to their estimated budget totals for the season. Current payroll would be at $182.7M, if the AAV is split evenly between the seasons. I have estimated the team’s budget at $185M.
Interesting information about the deal:
-Top 5 in catcher WAR most years.— Tim Nicolai (@tim_nicolai) December 7, 2022
-wOBA ticked up in ‘22.
-xSLG up, as well.
-Hard hit % up.
-Max exit velo (116.2 mph) is Top 20.
-Pop time is Top 10.
-This a hell of a lot of red: pic.twitter.com/sVey1eKzmc
Gonna be a helluva pet peeve for the next few years, so here's my formal plea to Cardinals fans to acknowledge that the letter 'L' appears twice in Contreras' first name. The second L, which he accumulated during those many years with the Cubs, sits directly behind the first one.— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) December 7, 2022
We will update this post with more details as the news continues to come out. Check back often.