Willson Contreras, Miguel Amaya and where the Cubs’ catching depth stands
Since Jed Hoyer joined the Cubs in 2011, he and Theo Epstein have had a policy of always listening to trade inquiries that may come their way.
“I’m not in the business of talking about untouchables,” Hoyer said Wednesday. “I think that’s a mistake.”
But while he’ll answer phone calls or texts from other front offices about his players, that doesn’t mean he’s close to shipping any players, particularly star catcher Willson Contreras. Reports emerged Tuesday afternoon that the Cubs were “extensively shopping” Contreras on the heels of trading Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini.
Hoyer quickly dismissed that report, though.
“The reports yesterday,” Hoyer paused and chuckled, “fictional. There’s no other way to say it.”
Since he debuted in 2016, Contreras ranks 7th among all catchers in WAR, per Fangraphs.
“He’s one of the top handful of catchers in baseball,” Hoyer said. “We control him for two more years. Catching is a strength of this team as a result of having him on the roster.”
In a way, that’s what made trading Caratini a bit easier to accept. Contreras being an elite option at a premium position put the Cubs to trade from a position of strength. While losing Caratini might seem tough, Hoyer is content with Contreras at the top of the catching corps and looking for someone to fill that backup catching role to add depth.
That solution could mean a free agent or a veteran like Josh Phegley, who spent time with the Cubs in 2020. The answer likely won’t be their top catching prospect Miguel Amaya, though.
While Amaya spent the 2020 season at the Cubs’ alternate site in South Bend and is having a strong performance in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues (.261/.514/.609 slash line with 2 home runs and 11 RBIs for Criollos de Caguas), he hasn’t played above High-A ball.
“Amaya, I don’t see him as an option, certainly to start the season,” Hoyer said. “Excited about how he’s playing in Winter Ball and he’s a great prospect, but, no, he’s not someone that we’re penciling in.”