SAN DIEGO — Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker confirmed his team is interested in free agent catcher Willson Contreras just months after a trade for him was nixed.
“It’s not that I didn’t want him,” Baker explained on Day 1 of the winter meetings on Monday. “It’s just at the time I didn’t think it was a proper fit with two months to go in the season.
“We’re going to talk to him. And we have interest in him.”
Contreras, 30, is looking for a long-term deal after spending over a decade in the Chicago Cubs organization. He compiled a 128 OPS+ in 113 games last season for the Cubs but is the only free agent catcher with draft pick compensation attached to him after Chicago gave him a qualifying offer. That can limit the market for free agents.
“I’ve talked to some guys that were big-time Contreras fans from Chicago because I called [bullpen coach] Lester [Strode] about him,” Baker said. “Lester spent as much time with him in the bullpen, catching pitches. And he’s a big Contreras fan. He told me he loved the kid.”
The St. Louis Cardinals have spoken with Contreras’ representatives, who have also kept in touch with the Cubs, according to sources familiar with the situation. Contreras is in line for a deal between four and five years, worth up to $80 million, sources said.
The Astros and Cubs were close to a trade involving Contreras last July, but Baker felt there wouldn’t be enough time for a new catcher to learn his pitching staff. But now might be the right time to add another piece to the world champions.
“And if the numbers are right and the years are right and the situation is right, then [it’s] right for both of us,” Baker said.
Dusty Baker – Astros interested in signing Willson Contreras