Any hope you may have had of Willson Contreras remaining in Chicago may have gone out the window Tuesday afternoon. Jed Hoyer had already said the Cubs would be extending a qualifying offer to their catcher and there was an inkling that he might accept it given how the associated penalties for declining the offer could affect what was already looking like more of a lukewarm market than first anticipated.
As Jon Heyman tweeted, however, Contreras will decline the $19.65 million guarantee in search of a bigger payday with another organization. Players who receive a QO have until November 20 to decline it, but it doesn’t sound as though Contreras is willing to leave that safety net in place as he gauges the market. Nor should he, as he’ll still be able to secure a multi-year deal that will lock in a significant salary.
Cubs are extending the $19.65M qualifying offer to Willson Contreras, and he is declining it, making him a free agent. Very good two-way catcher should do extremely well on the open market.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 8, 2022
This isn’t a surprise to Cubs management, which was already planning to move in a different direction and will now look for a game-manager type via free agency or trade. Christian Vázquez and Tucker Barnhart are among the available backstops who fit the mold of what the Cubs are probably looking for, then there’s the report that Toronto is expected to trade from a catching surplus that includes Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, and Gabriel Moreno.
Whatever they end up doing, it’ll be a significant downgrade offensively from Contreras and that’s something Jed Hoyer is going to need to address with other moves. Some of that will come from within as Matt Mervis and other big prospects come up, but it’ll take a lot more thunder in other areas to build an offense that can blow people out.
Letting Contreras go for a supplemental draft pick in the 75-80 range makes the front office’s job that much more difficult, especially when they almost landed a starting pitcher for him at the deadline. Alas, it does no good to look at what might have been. If the Cubs are serious about competing, and they are because they have to be, they’re going to have to be active early this winter.