Cubs, Willson Contreras Head to Arbitration After Failing to Settle
Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein were once renowned for their ability to avoid arbitration, but times have changed for both the Cubs and baseball as a whole. Justin Grimm in 2018 was the first player who failed to settle under the Epstein regime and the first for the organization since Ryan Theriot in 2010, but Ian Happ went to the arbitration table last year and now Willson Contreras will do so.
According to reports, Contreras filed at $10.25 million, a raise of $3.6 million over last year, and the Cubs filed at $9 million. Even the higher amount is a bargain and it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that they couldn’t make this work over a mere $1.25 million for someone who’s been so valuable to the organization for so long now.
The catcher is in the final year of his rookie deal and has been the subject of much speculation for the last several months as trades have stripped away nearly every other player from the title run and several more who weren’t. A rebuild would necessitate moving one of the few remaining stars the Cubs have left who’d net a big haul, but an immediate return to competitiveness means an extension is imperative.
Or, and stick with me here because this might be tough to grasp, the team could end up mired in decision-making purgatory and fail to do either until eventually being forced to trade Contreras at the deadline.
Going through the arbitration process isn’t the best way to establish good faith ahead of extension talks, so maybe the two sides can get together on something long-term before the team has to explain why their best player doesn’t deserve to be paid. They could still figure something out prior to pleading their respective cases to a third party, though that doesn’t seem all that likely.
If Contreras is smart, he’ll wear a Chelsea kit to any talks since that’s the best way to get ownership to cough up big bucks.