Marlins Reportedly Interested in Willson Contreras, No Traction in Talks

What a difference a year makes, huh? Prior to this winter, any potential deal between the Marlins and Cubs would have seen impact players heading north in exchange for prospects and/or money. But, oh, how the turntables. With the Cubs slashing payroll and looking to restock the system while the Marlins try to capitalize on a dynamic young rotation, there’s a report that Miami could be seeking to bring Willson Contreras to South Beach.

Craig Mish of SportsGrid, who’s typically out in front when it comes to Marlins news, tweeted Tuesday that the Marlins have talked with the Cubs and other teams. He notes that there’s no real traction at this point, which makes sense with the arbitration-figure deadline coming up Friday.

Mish then mentions Contreras in a subsequent tweet, though the wording is pretty garbled and it’s not entirely clear what he’s saying. He seems to be indicating that the Marlins are interested in Contreras and that they’ve at least had some exploratory talks to see what it would take to land the All-Star catcher. What’s more, the Marlins have a strong contingent of high-level prospects and could meet the Cubs’ needs in that regard.

The Marlins’ top prospect list is unlike any other you’re going to find, due in large part to the early COVID-19 issues that left the team bereft of a huge chunk of its active roster. To wit, 11 of Miami’s top 20 prospects and 14 of their top 30 have already gotten at least a little MLB experience. Only two of those players have turned 25 and eight of them are 23 or younger.

After being forced to accept a deal that returned four somewhat risky prospects with more distant ETAs in the Yu Darvish/Victor Caratini deal, the Cubs might see an opportunity to beef up the pipeline with players who are closer to big league readiness. The Marlins, on the other hand, have stockpiled all kinds of young talent over the last few seasons by trading away Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and J.T. Realmuto.

They might now be interested in reversing course and adding a big name or two, particularly someone like Contreras who doesn’t have a long-term commitment and isn’t making a ton of money. Jorge Alfaro hasn’t quite been the player the Marlins were hoping for when they got him in the Realmuto deal and Chad Wallach isn’t going to set the world on fire. With just one catcher among their top 30 prospects — Will Banfield, No. 30 — Miami doesn’t need to worry about anyone’s development being blocked.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman confirmed that Contreras “has been linked in talks to Marlins,” but added that money might be an issue for Miami after picking up Starling Marte‘s $12.5 million option.

That doesn’t really track, though, because Roster Resource estimates the Marlins at a payroll of just $59 million after being at $85 million last season. And yes, the current number includes Marte. They could add Contreras, who’s projected to earn around $7.5 million at the high end via arbitration, and still be almost $20 million — or about 22% — under last year’s mark.

Taking this a step further into the hypothetical, it’s easy to imagine one of the two veteran catchers above heading to Chicago in a potential deal. The Cubs would be without either of their primary backstops from 2020 and would need to fill the void at a low cost until Miguel Amaya is ready. Alfaro is projected at less than $2 million in his first year of arbitration and Wallach isn’t arb-eligible until 2022.

Chances are good that this will amount to nothing, but there’ve been enough separate reports about Contreras being made available that it can’t be dismissed out of hand.

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