Catcher Willson Contreras is potentially reaching the end of his time with the Cubs, the only organization he’s ever known. He’s about five months away from becoming a free agent and is also an obvious trade candidate, meaning he could depart before this year’s August 2 trade deadline. He’s open to stick around via a contract extension but apparently isn’t hearing anything from the front office, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer wasn’t any less withholding when speaking to the media, as Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic relays that he avoided answering a question about the extension situation.
The Cubs did this extend-or-trade dance last year with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez, with all three of them eventually getting dealt before the deadline. Whether Contreras ends up following the same trajectory or not, he doesn’t seem fazed by it. “I’m just focused on doing the best for this team, finding the best way to help the team, and whatever happens in the middle of the season is going to happen,” Contreras said. I’m at peace with myself. I’m at peace with my mind. And whatever happens, even during the season or after the season, is going to be fine with me.”
Contreras is on pace to have his best season yet, as he’s hitting .263/.391/.474 through 32 games. That amounts to a wRC+ of 150, easily topping his previous high of 126. That will only add to his appeal on the trade market this summer. With the Cubs sporting a 15-22 record, they’re certainly leaning towards deadline sellers for the time being. The fact that they signed Yan Gomes to a two-year deal in the offseason only increases the odds of Contreras ending up changing jerseys in the coming months. As the catcher himself put it, “The trade rumors, they’re going to come.”
As for other members of the team, Codi Heuer tells Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times that he’s expecting to be out of action until June or July of next year. The 25-year-old righty underwent Tommy John surgery in March, just before the end of the lockout. That puts his recovery right in the usual 12-18 month timeline that is customary for such situations. Acquired from the White Sox as part of the Craig Kimbrel deal, the righty had exactly two years of service time coming into this season, meaning he’ll have exactly three years going into the winter, qualifying him for arbitration for the first time.
Another player in the organization facing an extended absence is prospect Ed Howard, who recently underwent hip surgery following an injury last week. Patrick Mooney of The Athletic relays that the organization is hoping Howard can return by Spring Training next year. “The early prognosis has looked good as far as the comeback,” Hoyer said. “But that’s going to be a comeback after a lot of rehab and a lot of time. I know he’s in good spirits. But he’s got a real road ahead of him and you feel for him.” The 16th overall selection of the 2020 draft, Howard is considered the #8 Cubs prospect by FanGraphs and #20 by Baseball America. This significant injury absence will delay his progress towards the major leagues, though Hoyer says he is expected to make a full recovery.