Sources confirmed to the Post-Dispatch Wednesday that the St. Louis Cardinals have reached an agreement with free-agent catcher Willson Contreras pending a physical. With Yadier Molina retiring, the deal would make Contreras the first new starting catcher for the Cardinals in two decades.
Here are five facts about the new catcher for the Cards:
First to 500?
Contreras has been in the Cubs organization since he was 16 years old, joining the Cubs run academy in his native Venezuela at an early age. He would go on to play 734 games for the big-league club and will now make the jump to Chicago's historic rivals in St. Louis. In doing so, Contreras joins an exclusive club of players like Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean and Bruce Sutter to play for both clubs.
People are also reading…
The catcher could be a first though, given his history of playing more than 100 games in a season and the five year term on his contract. Should Contreras play 500 games for the Cardinals over the course of his deal, he would be the first player to play that many games for both the Cubs and the Cardinals.
Despite being a right-handed hitter, the power hitting catcher has become a specialist at hitting right-handed pitching, bucking conventional wisdom as to ideal matchups for hitters. In 2022, Contreras hit .251 against right-handed pitching, 32 points higher than lefties. He also added 14 home runs and 41 RBIs against righties.
This hasn't always been the case over the course of his career, though. Contreras owns a .866 OPS against lefties, 78 points higher than his .788 OPS against righties, indicating an improvement over his seven major league seasons.
Largest Free-Agent Contract
Signing a $87.5 million dollar deal with the Cardinals, Contreras became the highest paid free agent player who has never been a Cardinal to be signed by the club in franchise history. The deal surpasses Dexter Fowler's five year, $82.5 million dollar contract signed in 2017. Fowler was also brought over from the Chicago Cubs.
No Stranger to Busch Stadium
Contreras is already very familiar with his new home ballpark, having played at Busch Stadium 39 times, which marks the fourth-most visited ballpark in his seven-year career.
In those 39 games, the catcher had an OPS of .720 with 29 hits, four home runs and 12 RBIs. Each of those figures ranks in the top five for any ballpark he's played in, including Wrigley Field.
Born in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, Contreras and his younger brother William started playing baseball in the streets of their hometown by rolling up pieces of paper to use as a ball. Today, the brothers are both major leaguers, with William, who plays catcher for the Atlanta Braves, having won a World Series in 2021.