MLB Breaking News: Willson Contreras Signs With St. Louis Cardinals in 2023 MLB Free Agency
Published: Dec 07, 2022
Updated: Dec 07, 2022
Willson Contreras is on the move. Catcher is always a shallow position, whether it’s in real life or for fantasy baseball. So it’s big news when one of the best in the game changes teams, especially to a division rival, in free agency. That’s exactly what Chicago Cubs fans saw happen during the Winter Meetings as their arch rival St. Louis Cardinals have signed the star backstop away for the next five years for $87.5 million. What a perfect move for the Cardinals as they were looking to replace their Hall of Fame catcher in Yadier Molina and now get a ready-made replacement. Just what does this mean for Willson Contreras’ 2023 Fantasy Baseball value as well as where the Cubs go from here is below.
What is Willson Contreras’ Fantasy Baseball value in 2023?
He will stay in the same division with this move. That’s helpful to base his fantasy value on as most of the games he plays will be in the same parks he’s spent his career playing in. That doesn’t mean that his value won’t change though. One thing that’s noticeable right off the bat (excuse the pun) is the Cardinals’ lineup is far better than his previous surrounding cast in Chicago. There’s Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in the middle of the lineup but there’s also Tyler O’Neill and Tommy Edman in the top-half of the lineup with Contreras. That’s a lot of chances to drive in runs or be driven in, but it certainly improves his chances to get pitches to hit. Over the last three full seasons (so excluding 2020) he’s hit 20 or more homers each year and reached that level in four of the last five years. Contreras’ average has been up and down his whole career but last year the .357 wOBA mark suggests he was more productive than he was getting credit for as does the career-best mark of a 132 wRC+. Over the last two years, he’s compiled 43 homers and nearly 200 combined hits but it appears (from the spray chart below) that the confines of Busch Stadium could help the average climb some with better power alleys and a few more homers as the wind isn’t quite so bad in St. Louis.
We all know that catchers are shallow in fantasy baseball with perhaps 4-5 of actual value and Contreras will still be one of that group, as he has been, and perhaps his current ADP of just inside 100 will make him a value with the hitters now hitting around him in St. Louis.
Willson Contreras Signing Impact on the St. Louis Cardinals
We’ve all grown used to the Cardinals having one of the better catchers in the league in the heart of their lineup. That continues now. It’s not all sunshine and good news though. His predecessor in Yadier Molina was an elite defensive catcher and master of shutting down opponent running games. That’s not what Contreras is. He’s an average defensive catcher at best who’s thrown out just under 30-percent of would-be base stealers, compare that to the 40.2-percent mark that Molina posted in his career. Contreras’ addition in the lineup will make it deeper and put less pressure on guys like O’Neill and Dylan Carlson and Juan Yepez. In a division filled with teams that are mainly rebuilding, the Cardinals should remain the cream of the crop in the NL Central by adding Contreras as the likely number two hitter in their starting nine.
Willson Contreras Signing Impact on the Chicago Cubs
It’s an interesting move for the Cubs here. He was a beloved member of the core that won them the 2016 World Series to end the streak. He was highly productive over the last three full years. Yet, they ostensibly let him go for nothing but a compensatory pick in the 2023 MLB draft. They didn’t feel it right to trade him at the deadline so they could have a shot to re-sign him. However, they went and gave the same amount of money, for one year, to Cody Bellinger instead and then added Jameson Taillon. Chicago has Yan Gomes behind the plate as well as P.J. Higgins and let’s not forget about Miguel Amaya in Triple-A who should come up at some point in 2023 as one of their top prospects. Clearly, losing the surety that is Contreras in the middle of the lineup, isn’t a good thing for them but then again, they weren’t expected to compete this year anyway regardless of who else they add in free agency including perhaps Kodai Senga or a shortstop or two.
How does the Willson Contreras Signing Impact Other Free Agent Catchers
In all honesty, he was the big fish at this position in this class. While there are several other known names at catcher on the free agent market still, like Gary Sánchez, Christian Vázquez, Omar Narváez, and Mike Zunino, none of those guys were going to see the deal that Contreras was going to and did get. That being said, the teams that didn’t get Contreras who were in on him will now be looking to sure up one of those bats behind the plate in short order. Most of those names still left can be starting catchers depending on where they sign and still have solid fantasy value in 2023.
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- 2023 MLB Free Agent Tracker
- 2023 Top-350 MLB Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings
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