MESA, Ariz. (670 The Score) – Midway through an interview, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras had to excuse himself for a second to compose himself. He was emotional while reflecting on everything the organization has meant to him over the years, and he understands what may lie ahead.
Like former Cubs stars Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez in 2021, Contreras could be traded here in 2022 as he’s in the final season of his contract and isn’t engaged in extension discussions.
“This is something that is really tough for me,” Contreras said. “Personally, the relationships I have with the team, players and fans, (leaving) will be something that will be really tough to take. This is something very emotional for me, knowing all that I have had to go through to get to this point. It's going to be really tough and very emotional.”
A Venezuela native, Contreras signed with the Cubs when he was 17 years old. He has developed into one of the best catchers in baseball, averaging 25 homers and 81 RBIs over every 162 games in his career. Contreras hit .237 with 21 homers, 57 RBIs and a .778 OPS in 128 games in 2021. He has also improved his pitch-framing a great deal in recent seasons, addressing what had been considered his biggest weakness.
“Anyone who can analyze baseball on a daily basis knows what I bring to the table each day I go out there and play,” said Contreras, who will turn 30 in May. “I think that they know what I bring for the fans, the team, social media, just about everyone. I think they can appreciate my value a little bit more now.”
The Cubs added veteran catcher Yan Gomes on a two-year, $13-million deal last fall, protecting themselves in the case of Contreras getting injured or being traded. The Yankees and the Padres were a pair of teams that checked in on Contreras' availability in recent weeks, sources said.
“Baseball is a business, and it's something I learned from watching the guys last year and what they went through,” Contreras said. “Everyone can be moved or traded. No one is indispensable. You must come in and do your work every day. The rest will take care of itself.”
Cubs manager David Ross plans to rely on what he learned in 2021 as he helps Contreras navigate an uncertain future in 2022.
"The thing I learned from the conversations last year is you must continue to listen to and talk to guys in that situation,” Ross said. “Last year was a little unique with so many guys in that situation. I think Willson understands how good he is. He takes a lot of pride going out there doing his job while taking care of himself. I think things will work out for him as we talk through situations while watching the ebbs and flows of a season for me to give him assurance. When he needs rest, I need to give it to him. Mentally, I think he will be fine with the situation. My experiences last year will hopefully help with all of that.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.