It's hard to come by a catcher of his caliber, and especially one with his offensive talents. Since the Venezuelan's debut in 2016, Contreras has hit .267/.350/.470 with 67 home runs and 227 RBIs in 436 games, and that includes a subpar 2018 campaign when his power evaporated (.390 SLG in 138 contests).
In a perfect scenario, Contreras wouldn't be available. He should be part of a dynastic core alongside Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant (who has also popped up in trade rumors dating back to last offseason). Instead, the Cubs missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014 this past season, and the shine from the curse-breaking World Series victory in 2016 has worn off.
With the team owing big money to Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, and Craig Kimbrel, improving through trades seems more likely than making a big splash during free agency. That's especially true with the squad's biggest need (middle infield) woefully thin on the open market, and the pitching free-agent class is top-heavy and too expensive.
The Cubs are still looking to compete, too, so any return on Contreras would need to involve MLB-ready players and prospects. With all that in mind, here are five sensible landing spots for the 27-year-old backstop:
The Rays are rarely aggressive in free agency, with signing Charlie Morton the high-profile exception. So leveraging an incredible prospect pool to get an established hitter with several years of control remaining is right in their wheelhouse. Contreras won't hit free agency until 2023, making him more than a rental.
Shortstop Wander Franco and two-way player Brendan McKay are untouchable, but Tampa possesses a wealth of talent just below them. Matthew Liberatore, Brent Honeywell, and Shane Baz are on the cusp of being big-league ready starters, and 21-year-old catcher Ronaldo Hernandez could be a future replacement for Contreras.
The Rays hold the assets for a deal, and most will be able to make a major-league impact in short order.
You can practically hear every fan base moan at the mere thought of the Astros' offense getting even better. But with Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado hitting free agency, there's an obvious fit on the depth chart.
However, the Astros' once deep farm system has eroded due to graduations and trades. With Gerrit Cole likely leaving town, the team probably can't afford to trade right-hander Forrest Whitley, and Houston has avoided moving him despite interest.
So the Astros' offer for Contreras would have to be focused more on volume than perceived quality to get the job done. But in an era when teams don't trade their top prospects anymore, a blockbuster might not be required.
Alternately, Houston hurlers Josh James, Jose Urquidy, and Framber Valdez have cut their teeth in the majors with varying success. Urquidy's showing in the World Series may have caused his stock to rise compared to his peers.
It's time for the White Sox to open their contention window. While they will be players in free agency due to a manageable payroll, being active on the trade front is essential.
Chicago desperately needs another starting pitcher, but it's easier to find a viable arm than a top catcher in free agency, and Yasmani Grandal is going to be heavily pursued on the open market.
So Contreras can join his crosstown rivals and stay in the Windy City.
The Cubs and White Sox have done business before, so this isn't a crazy suggestion. But executing a deal depends on what can realistically be expected in a return.
If right-hander Dane Dunning hadn't needed Tommy John surgery, he'd be a shoe-in option for the White Sox to trade. Second baseman Nick Madrigal has soared up the system since being drafted fourth overall in 2018, making him an unlikely target, though a middle infield including him and shortstop Nico Hoerner is what front-office executives dream about.
The Braves might be the best fit in terms of minor-league trade chips. Their system is stacked with young pitching (Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson), and the team could stand to upgrade behind the plate while shuffling Tyler Flowers into a backup role.
It'd be especially fun if the Braves sent Contreras' brother to Chicago in the deal. The ascending William Contreras, who's also a catcher, was moved up to Double-A in 2019.
The Reds possess a defense-first catcher in Tucker Barnhart, so adding the more offensively minded Contreras would boost a disappointing lineup. Expect Cincinnati to shift gears if the team whiffs on Grandal in free agency, and Contreras is a solid backup plan.
The club's farm system is relatively robust, though acquiring Hunter Greene (who's recovering from Tommy John surgery) and 2019 first-rounder Nick Lodolo is unlikely. Think more along the lines of right-hander Tony Santillan, catcher Tyler Stephenson, and one of the Reds' middle-infield prospects.
There will be no shortage of interest in Contreras far beyond these suitors. The Los Angeles Angels need a catcher almost as badly as an ace, the Milwaukee Brewers aren't a lock to retain Grandal's services, the Oakland A's are no stranger to swinging big deals, and the Los Angeles Dodgers may be looking to shake things up after falling short of a championship again.
If the Cubs are seriously considering trading Contreras, they likely won't have to accept the first offer.