Will the Red Sox make waves this offseason? Boston has financial flexibility and a strong desire to bounce back from a disappointing 2022. As such, we’ll examine whether several notable free agents make sense (or don’t make sense) as the club looks to retool for 2023 and beyond.
There are multiple free agents projected to earn a lot of money this offseason, and Willson Contreras is aiming to be one of those players.
The longtime Chicago Cubs catcher highlights a sparse market for backstops. It’s why Contreras can make himself one of the highest-paid catchers in Major League Baseball.
The three-time All-Star was part of Chicago’s World Series-winning team in 2016 and carries seven years of experience in the majors. Contreras would be a solid veteran add to any roster.
He was a big name floated before last season’s MLB trade deadline. However, the Cubs didn’t bite on any reported offers, but the backstop’s emotional farewell from Wrigley Field signaled he likely is not interested in a return to Chicago, which is good news for other contenders in MLB.
Catcher is not a priority for the Red Sox, but it is a position that could use an upgrade, and Contreras would no doubt be a great addition not only for Boston but for many major league rosters.
Age: 30 (May 13, 1992)
Weight: 225 pounds
2022 stats (with Chicago Cubs)
113 games (487 plate appearances)
22 HRs, 55 RBIs, four SBs
128 OPS+, 3.3 fWAR
Career stats (eight seasons)
734 games (2,859 plate appearances)
117HRs, 365 RBIs, 22 SBs
115 OPS+, 15.5 fWAR
Why Contreras makes sense for Red Sox
Boston likely will roll with Connor Wong and Reese McGuire at catcher in 2023 if it does not make a signing at the position. The Red Sox clearly want to improve from last season and adding a talent like Contreras would help in doing that. Of course, Xander Bogaerts is a priority, but if the Red Sox can work out a deal that doesn’t reset the market, like the Philadelphia Phillies did with J.T. Realmuto, Boston could sign both Contreras and Bogaerts. The offensive output from both players would be incredible to watch at Fenway Park. Contreras posted an OPS+ of over 100 in six of his seven seasons in the majors.
One of the rule changes that will take effect in 2023 will be larger bases. Many players have mocked the idea, but it’s not known what effect this will truly have on the game. It likely will mean teams will at least try to utilize their speed more. To combat this, teams should prioritize having a strong defensive catcher, and Contreras fits that bill.
Why Contreras doesn’t make sense for Red Sox
Cost would be a major factor in the 30-year-old not joining Boston. But it should be noted only three catchers are making over $18 million a year: Realmuto, Kansas City Royals’ Salvador Pérez and Chicago White Sox’s Yasmani Grandal. Realmuto’s deal likely is an outlier as the 31-year-old arguably is the best backstop in the game. Pérez is a franchise legend, and Grandal’s deal isn’t looking so great due to the 34-year-old’s injury history. Contreras could command a similar average annual value at $18 million, and Boston’s chances of signing the three-time All-Star would depend on whether it gets caught in a bidding war. It’s something the Red Sox don’t need to do as there are plenty of options at the position, including a reunion with Christian Vázquez.
Verdict: Contreras would be a great addition to the Red Sox, but the catcher appears to want his payday, and that might be the deal breaker for Boston amid a number of other options that can be pursued without breaking the bank.
Prediction: Contreras fills the big shoes of Yadier Molina and signs with the St. Louis Cardinals.