Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is enjoying the best season of his career and is the biggest name being floated in MLB trade rumors this summer. With his team willing to flip the All-Star slugger for prospects before he departs in free agency, a trade seems inevitable.

On the surface, Contreras seems like the caliber of talent worthy of an outstanding return. In terms of his production at the plate, Contreras is the best catcher in baseball offensively. With MLB postseason contenders like the San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and Houston Astros in desperate need of a great backstop, that would seemingly create the perfect market.

Willson Contreras stats (2022): .279/.393/.524, 12 home runs, 40 runs scored, 157 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR

However, Contreras will only be a half-season rental, which significantly alters his trade value. MLB teams have become increasingly unwilling to trade top prospects, especially for a player who can walk in the upcoming offseason. Another factor working against Contreras is that he ranks 28th among catchers in StatCast’s pitch framing and is only slightly above average in pop time.

Combine those factors with the concerns MLB teams have about a catcher acquired in late July handling the transition to a new pitching staff in the middle of a playoff race, context matters when evaluating potential trade returns.

Let’s examine three potential landing spots for a Willson Contreras trade.

 

Willson Contreras traded to San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey retiring significantly hurt the San Francisco Giants. While the club might have held out some hope that top prospect Joey Bart took advantage of a great opportunity, that experiment ended badly. Now, San Francisco’s catchers are really dragging this team down.

San Francisco and Chicago obviously have a history, the Kris Bryant trade is already working out nicely for the Cubs. The familiarity with the Giants’ farm system, even a year later, should help the two sides if Farhan Zaidi decides to make another aggressive move this summer.

San Francisco Giants trade: Heliot Ramos, Sean Hjelle, Steven Duggar

Chicago Cubs trade: Willson Contreras, $2 million cash

In this deal, San Francisco parts with one of its top-five prospects. Heliot Ramos, a 22-year-old outfielder, is splitting time between Triple-A Sacramento and the MLB club this year. He is struggling (.217/.299/.333 slash line in AAA), but there is above-average power and speed with the chance to become a productive everyday outfielder. Meanwhile, Hjelle provides Chicago with more pitching depth.