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Cubs Rumors: Willson Contreras Agrees to $9.6M Contract for 2022 Season

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 9, 2022

Chicago Cubs' Willson Contreras reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Baltimore Orioles during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, June 7, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The Chicago Cubs and Willson Contreras, who leads all MLB catchers with 10 home runs in 2022, reportedly reached an agreement Thursday on a one-year, $9.625 million contract to avoid arbitration.

ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported details of the deal, which represents the midpoint between the sides' arbitration proposalsβ€”$9 million for the Cubs and $10.25 million for Contreras.

The arbitration process was delayed by the 99-day MLB lockout during the offseason, which is why hearings are ongoing two months into the regular season.

Contreras is playing his final year under arbitration. He's eligible to become a free agent at season's end if the sides don't agree to an extension.

He's off to a terrific start to the campaign. His 10 homers are two more than any other catcher, ahead of the eight by his brother William of the Atlanta Braves and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Daulton Varsho, and his 2.2 WAR is also tops at the position, per FanGraphs.

While he's made a major impact with his bat, his play behind the plate has left room for improvement.

Contreras ranks 53rd on the Baseball Savant catcher-framing leaderboard, which estimates he's cost the Cubs two runs in that aspect of the game.

The 30-year-old would still attract ample interest if he hits free agency next winter because of his production at a position with a limited number of high-end offensive producers.

The Venezuela native is a two-time All-Star who owns a career .260/.353/.463 slash line with 105 home runs across 668 career appearances. He's spent his entire seven-year MLB tenure with the Cubs, who won the World Series during his rookie year in 2016.

Chicago is going through a rebuilding phase and has already trended in the wrong direction this season with a 23-33 record. Contreras' bat at a premium position would make him a prime target for contenders, and that could yield the Cubs quite a trade haul.

In March, the standout backstop said trade rumors are a product of "doing something good on the field that another team might want."

"And I understand that the Chicago Cubs are in a rebuild right now. And if they can get good packages, they're going to do whatever they do best for the team," Contreras told reporters. "Anyways, whatever happens, happens."

He'll be one of the most popular names in the rumor mill over the next two months.