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A New Catcher in St. Louis: Willson Contreras

Image Credit: Daniel Budasoff/Latino Sports

NEW YORK– The passing of a torch in St. Louis? With future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina opting to finish off his impeccable 19-year playing career this past season, a replacement behind the plate is now in place. Earlier this week, free-agent catcher Willson Contreras signed a five-year contract with the Cardinals for a total of $87.5 million. 

As the former Chicago Cub, three-time All-Star, and 2016 World Series champion, stays within the National League Central, he now carries the Cardinal Red lettering across his chest. 

Recently published in The Players Tribune — Let’s Do This, St. Louis! — Contreras goes into detail on an array of topics such as how much of an impact Molina made across MLB, replacing the Cardinals legend behind the plate and his ultimate turning point to sign with St. Louis. 

“One of the best to ever do it. Yadi’s a mentor and an inspiration to people like me. He’s the person we look up to. The role model. I admire everything about him — what he did for his team, for this game, for the community of St. Louis. He’s the guy who set the bar that everyone else is trying to reach.”

“So, yeah, Yadi? He’s not someone you ever replace. And I’m definitely not looking to do that.”

Photo Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Contreras then described his free agency experience and decision to join the Cardinals. 

“Going through this process, I envisioned myself with different teams. (You can’t help but do that. You know what I mean?) And when I closed my eyes and saw myself behind the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals, I don’t know… I just really loved how that felt. It felt right.”

“And I can tell that playing for this team is going to be incredible.”

Now, for most free-agent signing scenarios, particular team fan bases become livid. The typical saying of ‘This player could have signed here, there, or ‘X’ player is earning that much now?!’ tend to arise.

As for Contreras’ situation, he chose to depart from the Cubs, the organization where he laid his roots and bloomed in, debuting back on June 17th, 2016. Though discussed in constant trade talks at past deadlines, and during offseasons, he became a fan-favorite over the course of his seven years in Chicago and coincidentally enough, Contreras as well as Kyle Hendricks were the only two remaining players from the Cubs 2016 World Series championship team on the 2022 roster. 

In those seven seasons, Contreras earned a total of $20,924,151. Over the course of the next five years, he will bring in an average annual value (AAV) of $17.5 million. A life-altering achievement for someone who was once just a Venezuelan teenager from Puerto Cabello chasing a dream. 

An underlying factor throughout his decision was where the Cardinals regime currently stands in their distinctive thought process of reaching, and capturing multiple World Series titles. In other words, successful long term sustainability. Coming off a 2022 season with a 93-69 record, winning their fifth National Central division title in the last 10 years, St. Louis is glorified as a consistent postseason franchise. 

A perennial winner with astonishing talents across the diamond — 10-time Gold Glove award recipient Nolan Arenado, 2022 NL Most Valuable Player Paul Goldschmidt, 2022 NL All-Stars right-handers Ryan Helsley and Miles Mikolas along with future Hall of Famer RHP Adam Wainwright. 

And leading the clubhouse is Oliver Marmol, age 36, a young charismatic skipper, who connects well with his players and coaching staff, enhancing the ‘buy-in’ methods throughout the organization. 

“He (Contreras) cares about winning, building relationships around him, mentoring guys younger than him, and that’s a really good fit for what we’ve got going here.” — Marmol said about his new catcher during an introductory press conference on Friday afternoon. 

Many projections point to Contreras producing and grooving in efficiently with St. Louis. The 30-year-old, Venezuelan native, has become one of the top premiere offensive catchers across our game today. In each full season since 2019, he’s finished within the top 10 among MLB catchers for home runs, totaling at least 21 HR per year (2020 shortened season: 7 HR & Tied 7th). 

Added to a Cardinals scorching line-up with the stars listed above, Contreras will routinely come to the plate with a rampant amount of scoring opportunities to cash in on. A winning move on all fronts as Contreras becomes a St. Louis Cardinal. 

“This is a team that’s built to win,” Contreras stated. “They’re built to win now, and they’re built to win in the future, too.”

“Follow us on instagram@latinosportsoficial for updates and exclusive content”

Robert Rizzo writes for Latino Sports

Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994

Email: RobertRiz994@gmail.com

Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with host Rich Mancuso and cohost Robert Rizzo.

Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.

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