The Agents of Octagon sat down with Scott Harris last week to discuss what it would look like having Willson Contreras behind the plate for Detroit. Details are a bit sketchy but the fact that both parties met indicates that the door is at least open to consider a deal. Here's what we know:
Contreras rejected a qualifying one year offer from the Cubs that was for $19.65M. The risk of signing for just one year is far outweighed by the premium some believe the salary represents on a multi-year contract that should reach somewhere from $66.9M to perhaps $84M, if not more with years beyond 5 added on for one or both parties to opt in on.
Contreras has two-fold connection with the Tigers. He is the former teammate of Javier Baez, and Scott Harris was an assistant to the Cub's GM Theo Epstein from 2012 to 2018. Both connections would seem be positives for the Tigers.
Contreras is a rare talent that would fit well with several teams, but he might have a unique level of importance on the Tigers. In Detroit he could be viewed as a potential clean-up hitter that would be asked to be the primary back-stop as well as be in the lineup frequently as either the DH,and perhaps even be asked to play some first base. Undoubtedly he would earn All-Star attention annually for the foreseeable future as likely the top player at his position in the AL.
Several other teams are likely interested in signing him, but probably do not have quite as much money to offer as the Tigers. It is conceivable that the Tigers would view him as more than a four year leading role player, and go to a 5th year with an option year for a 6th season. The value of each year would be at least $16.7, and as much as $19.7M, making a 5 year deal likely worth in the neighborhood of $90M to $100M. It seems likely that this would exceed any other offer he would receive by about $10M to $20M.
The pitching staff that Contreras would be charged with developing should further enhance the appeal of joining the Tigers. Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Beau Brieske, Joey Wentz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Spencer Turnbull, should also have Dylan Smith, Ty Madden, Jackson Jobe contending for starring roles. This degree of depth is unmatched by any team in baseball and would make Contreras a key figure on the national stage as these players develop into stars.
The future of the entire team rests on this talent as well as several other young players that should compliment Contreras. Several Latin American players should look to him for guidance as they make their way to Detroit. Wenceel Perez, Roberto Campos, Christian Santana, and several other very promising prospects would be influenced by him as a leader.
Other cornerstones to the franchise include other Latin American players such as Greg Soto, Jose Cisnero, and Joe Jimenez. Of course, as Miguel Cabrera passes the torch to a new team leader, a special connection to Contreras seems likely to be another meaningful bridge. Reminiscent of a prior era that saw the Tigers emerge as a World Series team is the similarity of Contreras to Ivan Rodriguez - as they both remade the catching position into the strongest position on the team.