The Marlins have had discussions with the Cubs about catcher Willson Contreras, according to SportsGrid’s Craig Mish (Twitter link). There isn’t any sense that a trade might be close, as Mish describes the situation as “very fluid” considering how “the Cubs have big decisions to make across the board” (namely, trade talks involving several of their veteran players).
As you might expect, Contreras has been a key figure in these talks, as the Angels and multiple other teams have inquired about the backstop’s services. It stands to reason that pretty much any team with a need behind the plate has at least checked in on Contreras, and Miami’s interest hints that even teams who seemed to have a catching option in place are interested in Contreras as an upgrade.
2020 was a tough season for Jorge Alfaro, acquired as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade package in February 2019 and immediately tabbed as Miami’s next catcher of the future. After hitting decently well in 2019, Alfaro’s numbers took a significant step backwards in the shortened 2020 season, to the point that the Marlins turned to Chad Wallach as their regular catcher in the playoffs so the club could at least get some defensive stability out of the position.
The Marlins also recently signed Sandy Leon to a minor-league deal and re-signed Brian Navarreto for further depth, indicating some desire on Miami’s part to address its catching mix. Acquiring Contreras would obviously be a much more seismic move, and it seems possible that Alfaro could be part of a hypothetical trade package heading to Chicago. Catcher Miguel Amaya is one of the Cubs’ top prospects but has yet to play above high-A ball, so Alfaro wouldn’t necessarily be blocking Amaya’s progress. Alfaro is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is controlled through the 2023 season.
Contreras, meanwhile, has two arbitration seasons left and is projected to earn between $5M-$7.4M for the 2021 season. It’s a very reasonable price for one of the sport’s better overall catchers, a two-time All-Star who continued to post solid (.243/.356/.407 in 225 PA) hitting and framing numbers last season. Landing such a productive player on short-term control would be a fit for any team, but particularly a Marlins organization that is starting to stretch its payroll a bit as the Fish have become competitive. After acquiring Starling Marte at the trade deadline and exercising his $12.5M option for 2021, Miami has yet to swing any major moves this winter, mostly focusing on lower-level bullpen additions.