The market for the top free agent catcher continues to come into view. Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago reports that Willson Contreras has received preliminary multi-year offers from both the Cardinals and Astros at this week’s Winter Meetings. A third team has also put forth an offer, according to Wittenmyer, though the identity of that club is unknown (but is said to not be either Boston or Tampa Bay). Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch characterizes discussions more informally as the team also juggles trade possibilities but notes there has been talk about the possibility of a multi-year offer.
Both St. Louis and Houston have been tied to Contreras numerous times through the offseason, but it’s still notable those teams have put proposals on the table. John Denton of MLB.com reports (Twitter link) that a fourth year could be an obstacle in Contreras’ talks with St. Louis. According to Denton, the Cards are prepared to meet the three-time All-Star’s asking price on an annual basis but are reluctant to go past three seasons. Whether another team is putting a fourth year on the table isn’t clear, although Wittenmyer adds that no teams have thus far been willing to go five years.
St. Louis skipper Oliver Marmol confirmed reports the Cards would sit down with Contreras at the Winter Meetings. Goold has suggested the team’s preferred solution is to acquire A’s backstop Sean Murphy, although that’d require surrendering highly-regarded young talent — and the A’s are reportedly looking for MLB-ready players in return. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat tweets there’s a growing sense the Cardinals could find their new catcher in free agency, and he characterizes Contreras as the target that’d be most likely in that scenario.
The Astros interest in Contreras dates back to the trade deadline, but owner Jim Crane nixed an agreed-upon swap that’d have brought him in from Chicago. It seems they’re less concerned about him acclimating to a new pitching staff with an offseason to prepare than they’d be if he were added in the midst of a pennant race, and the multi-year proposals on the table reflect that. Houston has Martín Maldonado as their top backstop at present, and Contreras would be expected to rotate between catcher, left field and designated hitter if they pulled off a deal.
At the end of the season, the 30-year-old declined a qualifying offer from the Cubs. He’d cost any signing team at least one draft pick, while the Cubs stand to receive draft compensation in the highly likely event he departs. MLBTR forecasted a four-year, $84MM contract for Contreras at the start of the offseason.