The Astros have been linked to Josh Bell a few times in recent days, but the Nationals first baseman isn’t the only rental bat on Houston’s radar. Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Astros have been in contact with the Cubs about catcher Willson Contreras.
More broadly, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic wrote this morning that Houston is looking into ways to add to the catching corps before next Tuesday’s trade deadline. The Astros have been without veteran backup Jason Castro for nearly a month, and manager Dusty Baker indicated over the weekend that Castro wasn’t progressing as hoped (via team field reporter Julia Morales). That has left the club relying on rookie Korey Lee to back up Martín Maldonado. Lee is one of the better prospects in the Houston farm system, but he’s struggled this year in his first extended crack at Triple-A.
Of course, there are myriad ways in which the Houston front office could address the catching group. If they’re committed to keeping Maldonado as the primary backstop, then a veteran depth option in the Tucker Barnhart mold could suffice. The Tigers would certainly be open to moving the impending free agent for a minimal prospect return.
Contreras, on the other hand, would require sending significant talent back to Chicago. He’s a virtual lock to change uniforms within the next week. Because MLB and the Players Association didn’t agree to an international draft, the qualifying offer system for free agents is set to remain in place. The Cubs could theoretically hold Contreras and recoup a draft pick once he signs elsewhere next winter, but they’re far likelier to land a more valuable return via trade.
Maldonado, who has started 70 of Houston’s 97 games behind the plate, is beloved in the clubhouse for his management of the pitching staff. He’s never been a good hitter, though, and his .237 on-base percentage is the fifth-lowest mark among 260 hitters with 200+ plate appearances on the season. Maldonado has also rated as a below-average pitch framer and overall defender in the eyes of public metrics this season. The Astros clearly believe he brings immense intangible value, but there’s room on paper for an upgrade.
Of course, if the Astros want to keep Maldonado behind the plate, they could make room for Contreras’ bat at other positions. The Cubs backstop has long been regarded as a bat-first catcher. He’s made strides from a pitch framing perspective in recent seasons, improving from one of the league’s worst-rated framers to roughly average in that regard. Passan notes, however, that some contenders have expressed concern about Contreras’ ability to manage a new pitching staff quickly — not an uncommon refrain for catchers who are dealt midseason. Contreras is talented enough a hitter than an acquiring team could plug him in more frequently at first base and/or designated hitter than at catcher for the season’s final few months while still upgrading their offense.
Houston has Yordan Álvarez at DH, although he’s seen sporadic time in left field as well. The clearer path for an offensive upgrade is at first base, where Yuli Gurriel has a disappointing .234/.287/.384 season line. Bell would be a more obvious direct replacement for Gurriel, but it’s not out of the question teams could eye Contreras — owner of a career-best .258/.373/.470 slash — as an option to rotate between DH, first base and catcher rather than as a full-time backstop.
The Astros aren’t the only team in contact with the Cubs about Contreras, of course. The Mets have been tied to him for a few weeks, and both Passan and Pat Ragazzo of Sports Illustrated suggest today he remains a viable target for New York. Ragazzo reports that New York and the Cubs have discussed trade frameworks involving Contreras and Cubs closer David Robertson in a package deal that would send multiple prospects back to Chicago. Ragazzo adds that Francisco Álvarez and Brett Baty — the top two prospects in the system in Baseball America’s most recent Top 100 — would be off the table. The only other Mets farmhand to make BA’s top 100 is outfielder Alex Ramirez, but players like Matt Allan, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos have been in the recent Top 100 mix for various prospect outlets.
Smokin Joe Charboneau
Hunter Brown for Contreras. Who says no?
No way…..not for. 2 month rental. They need to go after Luis Castillo. Not only to keep him away from the Yankees and Dodgers but he can shut down a team I the playoffs. He could the difference between a WS championship or not.
I’ll take Verlander, Castillo, and Valdez all day in any series. He is definitely the key as well as keeping him away from other WS caliber teams. Well said…
That rotation scares the poopsicles out of me. Verlander is like Brady and just won’t freaking age. Also has a bombshell model of a wife. I’m taking Kate or Giselle any day of the week though.
Lol, the Astros only recognizable top talent for a half year rental who won’t play catcher? Ya, no.
It’s not completely out of the question. We’re talking about a player who has the best stick in the league at his position vs the 83 rd best PROSPECT in MLB.
At his position that he won’t play while Maldonado is still on the team.
He would be put at first primarily and would be a minor improvement offensively while being a major downgrade defensively. For a top prospect. For two months.
Minor improvement offensively? Yuli and or the catchers have been nothing short of brutal offensively. Between 1st, C, and DH he would everyday be adding a much better dimension to the lineup. I wouldn’t call that a minor upgrade.
Astros Hot Takes
staff wants to pitch to Maldy – No disrespect intended, but you don’t know what you’re talking about in this regard
Minor improvement offensively? Contreras has the best offensive stats of any catcher this season. Maldonado has a sub-.600 OPS. You’ve just made one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever read on here that wasn’t from ChiSox.
What’s with the insults especially when half the season he was in the minors. He’s stats are not even the best
Prospect rankings are meaningless. Just ask the non-Verlander members of the Astros rotation.
They’re not getting Contreras and Robertson for a bunch of second tier prospects. Ain’t gonna happen.
I say no
I think the only thing we need is to add one bullpen arm. Hang on to the prospects you got.
The Houston Astros have one of the best records in Major League baseball. They have dominated the top competition in the league that they faced. They just don’t need a lot. You don’t want to trip over dollars to pick up pennies
Hard pass on Contreras. Much rather have Bell.
I like Bell too but where is he going to play if you get him? I can’t see them benching Yuli. Bell has played outfield before but it was long ago and a small sample size. Would you put him in right and move Tucker to center?
I think Bell becomes the primary 1st baseman. Yuli put into a bench role. Bell can dh when yordan is in left. Yuli at first
This team has holes and weaknesses on offense.
There are ABs to go around.
Especially now that Alvarez is going to need to sit 20-25% of the rest of the season because of his hand.
Between 1B, LF, and DH any new bat can play 75% of the time.
1B: Yuli 65% ( new guy) 35%
LF: Brantley 40%, Alvarez 35%, McCormick 25%
DH Alvarez 45%, ( new guy 40%), Brantley 15%
They absolutely bench Yuli. That’s the point of going after a 1st baseman.
They absolutely bench Yuli. That’s the point of going after a 1st baseman.
Houston is NOT going to pay a high price for Willson Contreras, if they intend to use him at a position other than catcher. Anyone would be crazy to do so.
It is sort of dumb to even suggest this, in a space like this.
Astros Hot Takes
every one of your sentences, and every clause, is 100 % correct
You platoon Contreras between DH and catcher only. But doesn’t matter. They’re not getting Contreras and Robertson without ponying up. Besides too many other teams are gonna outbid them.
Seems like a deal for Contreras is in place with someone already based on Contreras reaction after the game this afternoon. Hug line and saying his goodbyes to everyone.
Not necessarily. The fans & players just know that this may be his final home game with the team.
Yea I get that could be it too. It just had the look and feel of a guy who has just been traded. Too me it all but confirms he’s gone and most likely gone before Tuesday.
players love being a Cub. Great City, great fans, great ballpark.
Players do love playing for the Cubs. Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez didn’t want to leave. Chicago is a wonderful city and Wrigley is an amazing place to play. Not sure why you’d think sjwil1’s comment was sarcastic.
The Cubs are away until after the trade deadline, so this is likely his last home game regardless of if/when he gets traded between now and August 2nd.
They probably told him they intend to trade him. Doesn’t necessarily mean they found a trade partner
He will probably be traded to a team no one expected. Catchers are so valuable that even teams not in contention may bring him in and sign him long term. Probably makes more sense for a team in current contention to trade for him, but wouldn’t surprise me either way.
If that were the case they would just sign him as a free agent at the end of the year. Why give up prospects in hope that you can sign him as a free agent when you could just…sign him as a free agent?
Lee wasn’t even hitting in AAA, so I wouldn’t expect much in the majors. Trading for a catcher so late in the season isn’t an easy integration for the pitching staff though.
If the Astros are looking for a Castro replacement, Tucker Barnhart is a solid defensive catcher who bats from the left side (switch hitter) and can spell Maldonado.
The Baseball Fan (Doesn’t like the White Sox)
OfF tHe TaBlE
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
I’m not found of the Astros, the only good catcher they have is the one that “caught” while misbehaving…
Glad you can spell fond correctly. Really makes me respect your take on things.
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
Maybe I could conjure up some respect for you @itsgonnahappen, if you actually posted a baseball comment.
Astros will be active IMO. Could easily see Contreras.
I also think sneaky team for Soto…
Tho hating that this team remains a top contender they are really close to another AL championship and World Series. Dusty Baker I feel wants it soooo bad. A fun team to root against but I think they stir the trade market.
Sigh. It would break my heart to see Willson on the dang Astros. Anyone but them. 🙁
Plus the Astros prospects pool isn’t too exciting.
Astros get stronger and Cashman waits for last min bargains! That’s what my gut is telling me and man it aches
I’m an Astros fan & I think our last series against Yanks actually hurt our chances of winning AL this year as I believe Cashman will not sit idle with the already solid squad you guys have… I could see him signing Soto and Castillo without breaking a sweat. Move Judge permanently to center and add Soto to right, could you imagine that outfield and trying to get through that lineup?
Called it, Yanks made first big move, not done yet…
James Click, Stros GM, has said the team will be aggressive at the trading deadline but has not provided any hints on what. I expect they are looking at multiple options.
Anyone have any ideas what a return for Contreras from the Astros would look like? The Astros farm is pretty thin overall.
Agree overall not a great farm right now, but the Stros have multiple players in AAA that are on the verge of majors and some solid players at the lower levels. No superstar level talent ( with possible exception of Hunter Brown) but lots of good players who play smart baseball. I think in any trade – Contreras, Castillo, Bell etc the Stros could combine one of their surplus starting pitchers ( they have 6 without Lance McCullers who is pitching rehab games) with some major league ready minor leaguers.
Yeah I mean I would see that. To me, a pitching rotation of stroman as 2, Thompson as 3, Steele as 4 seems like a very solid foundation next year. Especially if Thompson and Steele can take another leap forward. I figure someone like killian could be number 5. Add another starter in a trade like the Astros for depth and go out and sign someone like Thor to be the ace and that seems like a very competitive rotation to me. Not mention Hendricks/smyly/Miley as further depth.
I don’t think the cubs are that far out of contention for next year even if they go out and trade Happ and Contreras. They always macgyver a bullpen and have money to spend. Signing an ace level arm, along with a short term contract to a veteran outfielder in order to let the prospects develop below, and adding someone in the ss market would be huge. An opening day lineup day lineup of Suzuki, Velazquez, and a serviceable outfielder along with an infield of hoerner, .300 hitting madrigal, someone like bogearts/Correa, and wisdom at first sounds very competitive to me. Hoerner still has power he will add and not to mention that would be a very solid defensive left side of the diamond. Vets like higgins (although a lot in the minors) and Gomes would help out the young pitching too.
Do you have a time machine? Otherwise signing Thor to be an ace probably leads to disappointment.
That’s a laugh! I’m so I’ve the Cubs, I don’t really care if they ever win again.
Not saying he’s a true ace. Saying it’d be the ace for the cubs that’s all. Not saying it would be the best or anything. Just saying it would be a competitive rotation in a bad division.
Smyly and Miley are NOT under contract for 2023. Smyly has a mutual option that he will probably decline.
Stroman has a player option for 2024 so he will opt out (assuming healthy).
Look for cubs to trade (at least try) Hendricks and Stroman at 2023 trade deadline.
That should be the last sell off, plus Heyward is off the books after 2023.
Going into 2024, the cubs will have about 65m towards the luxury tax so about 172m to spend.
Yeah I knew that with stroman. Regarding the other guys all my point was was there would be other guys there. I figured not all of them.
You forgot Morel
Depending on what the scouts see, I could see them being interested in Whitley and Tamarez.
I could see the Cubs getting excited about Tamarez velocity and taking a flyer on Whitley’s talent.
Yeah those Whitley numbers lately though, errrrr….
As a Cub fan I’d be happy to see some MLB-ready talent come back at some point. I understand you get more potential bang for your buck trading for guys in the lower levels, but they need to speed this up or why’d they sign Suzuki ?
Defintiley one of Colin Barber or Hunter Brown as a headliner. Though they’d probably want to trade Barber over Brown since Brown is an MLB-ready arm. Honestly could see this being the end of Forrest Whitely’s time with the Astros as a secondary piece to a bigger package.
The Astros have become experts at developing non-prospects and making them bona-fide MLB players.
Luis Garcia, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, and Cristian Javier are all in their rotation and legitimate positive MLB starters after not being highly ranked on prospect lists.
Chas McCormick (3.2 bWAR IN 276 g) and Jake Meyers ( 1.7 b WAR IN 73g) not to mention Jeremy Pena who was not a top prospect his first 2 -3 years in the system show exactly what the Astros development organization does.
So it is true they have very few highly rated prospects, but they have several that they have developed and should become average to above average MLB players according to their reports.
Guys like Corey Julks and Emmanuel Valdez won’t make your fans excited Until they rake and finish top 5 of ROY voting.
I wouldn’t necessarily highlight McCormick and Meyes. Sub .240 batters are nothing to be celebratory about. And with Peña, he was solid in the minors anyways, whether ranked or not. The pitching, though, you are definitely right about, without question.
McCormick is a guy who can hit 20 home runs a year and provide very good defense in centerfold. Meyers has +5 DRS in center and is a league average batter. For two unranked prospects, that’s two guys who would start for most teams.
The Astros, Brewers, Rays, Guardians, and now Orioles are doing things throughout their organization that find players, make them better, and constantly make them more productive. To start with – you seldom see their players compound a problem on the field; if they mess up a play they don’t try to overcompensate only to make it worse. The first thing teams need to do to win is not to beat themselves.
Like you, I (and maybe a dozen others here) are sick of the top 100 prospect lists and the selected stats that are brought up to push an agenda. That’s to be expected. But the quality organizations look at those stats and (mostly) their internal stats objectively, and use them to make their players better.
IMO, with the QO offer still in place, Contreras isn’t a lock to be traded.
I could a scenario where the Cubs do not like the offers presented and hang on to Contreras and then hang the QO on him for leverage in negotiations.
If the Cubs end up dealing Happ, I think scenario becomes more likely because I think Contreras’s market would be greatly effected by the Qualifying Offer.
Willson will get a deal better than Grandal, QO or not.
I’m sure he would because he is younger and it’s been a few years since Grandal’s contract but ye of little memory, Grandal was very similar to Contreras, got a QO by the Dodgers and had to settle for a one year deal from the Brewers.
The White Sox pulled their Jayson Werth move with Grandal, i.e. gave him way more money than he was worth because no free agent wants to sign with the South Side.
I think Grandal took the one year deal first with the Brewers because he wanted the higher AAV at $18 million rather than a four year, $60 million from the Mets. It worked out for him.
I could be wrong, but Contreras shouldn’t have to worry about the QO dragging his AAV down below the QO in the off chance that he is not traded.
Should call the Royals about Cam Gallagher. He is always prepared as a backup and they don’t really have room for him in the future with MJ Melendez coming up and Salvador Perez being back next season.
Astros Hot Takes
Astros Hot Takes
“The Astros clearly believe he brings immense intangible value, but there’s room on paper for an upgrade.”
This right here is the difference between real life intelligent baseball, and fantasy baseball or this site’s thinking.
I prefer the real thing.
With Zunino out for the season, any reason why the Rays wouldn’t be in the thick of the action on Contreras?
Tomorrow there will be an article on how the Rays are discussing Contreras with the Cubs. Then a story about the Guardians, then Mets, then Padres, then Giants, then Mariners, etc. I’m guessing 8-10 teams, at least, are on the phone. Today’s clickbait just happened to be the Astros.
Maybe teams have finally learned…. NEVER TRADE WITH The RAYS.
Contreras and Robertson for KLee and pitchers Forest Whitley and Josh James
Astros won’t give up Korey Lee for a rental ( yet) Whitley has terribly low value now, and Josh James is in 2nd year of Arbitration and can’t make the MLB team.
This offer does not make sense for either team
Contreras to Astros for Colin Barber
It would be more than just Barber. The Cubs also have a bit of a logjam in the lower minors in the outfield.
I think they’ll have to add an arm with Barber for Cubs to bite…
They already have a hard enough time finding AB’s for their minor league outfield prospects. I’d be surprised if they look for anymore this deadline.
Chirinos would be cheap option. Veteran guy, good in clubhouse, and has a little thump. Would imagine he could be had for low prospect
Soto for Tucker, Brown, and Lee.
Unless someone gets hurt, who other than the Astros needs a catcher? I don’t think the Cubs will get a great return. Should’ve traded him over the winter or last summer. If they plan on contending in a couple years, just sign him for 4 or 5. He’s only 30.
The Rays do. Zunino is out for the rest of the season. The other catching options on the team are not the answer. Not that they will back up the truck, but the Rays could put together a better package than the Astros. Paying the second half of Contreras contract is something even Tampa Bay could afford.
Would the Jays and Astros connect on a catcher deal? I’m thinking a hard no but Danny Janssen has to be on the block with Kirk and Moreno.
Willson to the Mets. Gonna happen. Happ and Robertson gone too. Three different teams will buy. Could see Happ or Robertson getting on the red line.
1. Wilson C. is not great at calling games or gaining confidence with the pitching staff.
2. If Stros do trade for Wilson then expect him to play more DH and less Catcher.
3. Cubs fans shouldn’t expect a Earth shattering return for Wilson but other team fans shouldn’t expect Wilson to be sent away for nothing either.
My opinion is Wilson is a square peg to a round hole when matching with the Stros and I believe the Stros would be better off passing on him.
Jake 1972 – The pitcher whisperer.
Contreras nets a top 20 prospect. Mets padres rays all will fight for him . Astros no shot . Enjoy watching World Series at home but hey you didn’t have to give to anyone for a rental .
Dude you are way off base with this one. No way does Contreras net a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. Not even Contreras’s mom would make that trade
The Brewers have three catchers on their roster, after the return of Severino from his PED suspension. (Plus Narvaez and Caratini.) Not sure this is a luxury they can afford, given other needs in the lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the three dealt before the deadline.
Don Smith, Ronny Mauricio, Tom Szapucki, and Tomas Nido
Mets get: Contreras and Robertson
Who hangs up first?
Astros fan here and I really don’t want Contreras, or any catcher meant to replace Maldonado. You don’t mess with what our pitching staff is doing top to bottom. Barnhart or someone else to back him up, sure, but I think it’s safe to say we’re doing fine with Maldonado’s bat in the lineup.
I’ve been saying it all year, some catchers are just special in their ability to handle and develop pitching… the biggest mistake the cubs made was letting Maldonado go to the Astros…. Finally they look like they are correcting this flaw by signing Yan Gomes this off-season.
If the Astros had a pressing need at DH, I’d be all in on Wilco, let him DH and catch a bit when Martin needs a day or two but I, like you, wouldn’t replace Maldonado with Contreras.
I think most teams realize this which is why the market for contreras at least on its surface, seems to be Luke warm. I’m not sure the Cubs are going to get the offers they demand for contreras so I wouldn’t be surprised if they just keep him and go with QO route. Maybe it puts enough leverage on him to keep in in Chicago as a DH/spot starter behind the plate.
Sean Murphy seems like a cheaper and better target than Contreras.