Detroit Tigers Trade Target: Willson Contreras

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 24: Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on August 24, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The Cubs defeated the Tigers 9-3. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 24: Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on August 24, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The Cubs defeated the Tigers 9-3. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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I thought before Willson Contreras was too ambitious for the Detroit Tigers to chase as a trade target. I could be wrong.

So far this off-season, we have done several trade target pieces that could fit into the Detroit Tigers 2021 plans. Originally, I said to trade for Cubs catcher Victor Caratini simply because it would not cost Detroit some higher-end prospects and he is serviceable defensively for a young pitching staff, despite his lack of power numbers.

That Caratini piece was back in October and now that we have a better picture of the landscape in baseball on what teams are willing to spend (or not spend) to acquire talent, the Cubs are reportedly are open to trade catcher Willson Contreras.

As co-expert Chris Brown has indicated, the financial situation with the Detroit Tigers is a complete unknown. We do know the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox have been already busy making moves and the Twins are reportedly have an interest in second baseman Enrique  Hernandez.  

Unless owner Chris Illitch changes his mind, the reality is JT Realmuto is not coming to Detroit and looking at the free-agent catching market, it looks pretty grim to add a true difference-maker at the potential price point Detroit may go after.

Why Willson Contreras?

For one, Contreras is arbitration-eligible through 2022 and he made $4.5 million in 2020 so his contract is much more friendly to take on. His offensive output, which is what he is known for, is what stands out. In 2019, he hit a career-high 24 home runs with a healthy ISO of .261. While if you look at his slash line in 2020 of .243/.356/.407 in 57 games compared in 2019 as a down year, well, you would be mistaken.

Per FanGraphs, he actually showed a better eye as he had a 31.1% chase rate which was a 3.8% decrease from 2019 and an increase in hard-hit percentage in 2020 going from 41% to 47%. If you are interested in exit velocity, it went up from 88.5 to 89.8 in 2019. He barreled up the ball nicely, 4th among catchers with 14 and 4th in hard-hit contract at 47.8%

Defensively, it was quite the turnaround for Contreras. In terms of fWAR, he was a 4.6 compared to his 2019 season in which he was -0.3. Per Baseball Savant, he saved 2 runs from extra runs and was top 10 among catchers in strike rate at 51.2%.

The Cubs would want a healthy return for Contreras in terms of prospects. The Tigers have not traded their top prospects in quite some time and I know what I will hear next and that is “Don’t trade the prospects!”

Look, I know the Detroit Tigers are rebuilding and the prospects are the way to go. They did not bring up Jake Rogers last year so where does he fit into the picture? As I have heard this before, it is telling how a team feels about their prospects when they are not even being brought up.

The trades of Eugenio Suarez and Willy Adames, and that one from 1987, are always brought up to make a case not to trade prospects.  What the Cubs would want is anyone’s guess but I think Detroit should inquire and see what the cost would be. It did not hurt the LA Angels this week in upgrading their infield and bullpen and took advantage of a team like the Reds, who seem to be cutting payroll.

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