Angels ‘Heavily Engaged’ in Market for Catcher, Joe Maddon Offers No Comment on Willson Contreras Interest

The Angels are “heavily engaged in the catcher market,” according to Angels beat writer Maria Torres. They have 6-8 options on the table and GM Billy Eppler told Torres that they’ve had “active conversations” with two teams regarding a trade for a catcher. One of those could very well be Willson Contreras, who has been mentioned in several rumors over the last few weeks.

Joe Maddon was asked about both Contreras and Kris Bryant, noting that he finds it weird that the Cubs would be trying to trade either because “they’re still going to get better.” As for whether he’d like to be reunited with his former charges, Maddon offered no comment and simply admitted that he liked both.

It’s no surprise that the Angels are looking to acquire a top-tier catcher, especially since it appears that owner Arte Moreno is all-in on getting Mike Trout to the playoffs. As it stands now, the Angels’ depth chart consists of catchers Max Stassi and Anthony Bemboom, both of whom FanGraphs believes will be worth negative WAR in 2020.

Since Contreras is likely atop many other team’s wish lists, how do the Angels fair as a trade partner? They have two top 100 prospects right now: right fielder Jo Adell (future value 65/80) and center fielder Brandon Marsh (FV 50/80). The former is projected to debut in 2021 while the latter could make it to the bigs this coming season.

In addition to those top prospects, the Cubs might like 25-year-old contact-hitting utility infielder David Fletcher. In 653 plate appearances last season, Fletcher hit .290 with a 8.4% walk rate and 9.8% walk and strikeout rate and a league-average 99 wRC+, all while playing positive defense at second and third.

Then there’s 23-year-old starting pitcher Griffin Canning. The 6-foot-2 right-hander posted a 4.58 ERA and 4.37 FIP in 90.1 innings last season, posting 9.56 K/9 with 2.99 BB/9.

Contreras ended 2019 with an MLB-best 127 wRC+ even after dealing with a hamstring strain that sidelined him for over a month. He also dramatically improved his pitch framing in the second half, suggesting that he still has potential to refine his defense behind the dish. Trading Contreras might bring back a decent haul, but would only free up an estimated $5 million in payroll for 2020. That’s hardly enough freedom to sign players like Dallas Keuchel, Didi Gregorius, or Nicholas Castellanos, but maybe it’s a start for the Cubs.

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