Contreras willing to talk in season, bracing for trade originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
It’s no more complicated than the laws of supply and demand.
The supply of Willson Contreras is one.
The demand for Willson Contreras seems considerably greater with every week he plays during this final season before free agency — including the week’s worth of hitting he enjoyed in Monday night’s first inning against the Pirates.
After leading off with a double to right-center and scoring, Contreras got another turn about 20 minutes later and homered to left to become the first leadoff hitter in Cubs history — 10th in major-league history — to hit a first-inning grand slam.
At which point a vocal core of Cubs fans on social media increased the volume on their demands that the Cubs sign their hottest hitter to an extension before an otherwise all-but-inevitable trade at the deadline.
If the Cubs have been listening, they haven’t been sharing any of their thoughts with Contreras, who said on Monday that it’s still crickets from the front office on the extension front — as well as his 2022 salary status, which is to be decided by an arbitration panel in three weeks.
Not that Contreras has shut down any lines of communication. He’d gladly embrace extension talks with the Cubs anytime they want to call, even during a season in which the only big-league catcher with an OPS over .700 just boosted his to .906.
“Sure. That doesn’t bother me. We’re already going to have a hearing soon anyway,” said Contreras, whose 2-for-5, four-RBI Monday backed Wade Miley in a 9-0 victory — the Cubs’ fifth in seven games.
“We’re going to have to go through a hearing, and whatever happens there is going to happen, so it doesn’t bother me at all,” added Contreras, who said he continues to find “peace” in what might be his final weeks and months of a 13-year relationship with the organization.
Whether that reality on the horizon plays into his emotions and sense of peace these days, a lot of was on display when the grand slam — the 100th home run of his career — reached the bleachers. He gestured toward the fans and showed even more emotion in the dugout after rounding the bases, as well as in the clubhouse after the game.
“The grand slam was an amazing moment for me and the team and the fans,” said Contreras, who joins Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett and two-time All-Star Jody Davis among the only Cubs catchers with 100 homers.
“I was just trying to enjoy the moment, every little second,” said the Venezuela native, who said he has been thinking a lot about his childhood and his path to the big leagues during this season. “I’m really proud of what I’m doing.”
In fact, he said it’s nice to learn that he’s one of only 10 leadoff hitters to pull off a first-inning grand slam.
“But it’s better when you know that you’re the third Cub that has hit 100 homers as a catcher,” he said. “And making history for this team makes me proud.”
No matter what happens next. Wherever he might wind up playing next.
“The trade rumors, they’re going to come,” he said.
Maybe sooner than he thinks if he keeps up the kind of hitting he has produced over his past 18 games: 21-for-65 (.323) with a .436 on-base percentage, eight extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and a .990 OPS.
The NL East-leading Mets with their aggressive, win-now ownership have an immediate need with the six-week hand injury to James McCann and not much depth behind the plate.
And with the DH in the NL to stay now, that hot bat becomes even more valuable to more potential suitors — already playing at least a small role in helping keep Contreras’ legs, and bat, fresh in the early going this season.
“Man, those are things that I can’t control,” Contreras said. “I’m just focused on doing the best for this team, finding the best way to help the team, and whatever happens in the middle of the season is going to happen.
“I’m at peace with myself. I’m at peace with my mind. And whatever happens, even during the season or after the season, is going to be fine with me.”
Manager David Ross, a catcher and teammate of Contreras during the 2016 title run, got asked all season last year about core All-Stars Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant, saying he’d pay them all to stay if it was up to him — until all were traded in the final 20 hours before the deadline.
Asked after Monday’s game whether he’d extend Contreras, Ross said, “Oh, come on, [media person], let’s enjoy that performance. That’s not my specialty.
“What I would say about those guys that were here, and I’ll put Willson in that category: They’re championship-caliber players, and they’ve proven that on the biggest stage. And he’s been a big part of a lot of winning here, and it’s because he’s a really talented, special player.”