The St. Louis Cardinals are bringing in a catcher they know well to replace Yadier Molina. Willson Contreras reportedly agreed to a five-year, $87.5 million deal to join the Cardinals on Wednesday, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.
Contreras spent the previous seven seasons with one of the Cardinals' biggest rivals, the Chicago Cubs. With Chicago, Contreras put up a .256/.349/.466 career slash line, made three All-Star teams and helped the team win the 2016 World Series.
Contreras, 30, joins St. Louis after Molina retired in November. Molina spent 19 seasons in the majors, all with the Cardinals. He was a 10-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove winner and helped lead the Cardinals to two World Series titles. He'll garner plenty of Hall of Fame support once eligible. Molina hit .214/.233/.302 in his final season with St. Louis.
Contreras represents an upgrade over Molina's recent production at the plate. Last season, Contreras hit .243./349/.466 with 22 home runs. After some stronger batting averages early in his career, he settled in as a .241 hitter the past three seasons. He makes up for that average with strong walk rates and is usually a good bet to hit at least 20 home runs per year.
Cardinals aiming for World Series title after winning division in 2022
This move should help ensure that the Cardinals remain a force in the NL Central. The team won the division in 2022 thanks to excellent performances from Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado at the plate. Franchise legend Albert Pujols also helped in a big way, clubbing 24 home runs during a surprising comeback season.
Adding Contreras, one of the league's top catchers, should ensure that St. Louis' offense stays strong. However, the rotation might need another arm, especially after Jose Quintana signed a two-year deal with the New York Mets on Wednesday.
Even without other additions, the Cardinals should be considered strong contenders in the NL Central in 2023. The Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals' biggest competition the past couple of seasons, have sent signals that the team is retooling. Meanwhile, the Cubs have made some bold moves after finishing 74-88.
That could set up a scenario in which Contreras once again finds himself in the middle of a division race between the Cardinals and Cubs. This time, though, he'll be on the opposite side of the rivalry.