Willson Contreras on his uncertain future with Cubs: ‘Whatever happens, happens’
MESA, Ariz. — Willson Contreras stood at his locker with a smile pasted on his face, calmly answering questions about his uncertain future.
The main theme from Contreras’ media session Wednesday morning was his focus on the here and now — controlling what he can control.
It’s a concept that Jon Lester, David Ross and Joe Maddon helped bring to the Cubs clubhouse prior to the 2015 season.
Control the controllables.
Contreras doesn’t know where he will be playing baseball in 2023. He understands there isn’t even a guarantee he will be in Chicago beyond the trade deadline.
As MLB’s arbitration deadline came and passed Tuesday, the Cubs and Contreras did not reach a deal for the 2022 season. The case will now go to a hearing as the two sides determine his salary for the year.
Contreras doesn’t know when the arbitration hearing will be, but it will definitely fall during the regular season.
“There was a really short time to negotiate,” Contreras said. “We couldn’t get to an agreement but I’m happy to be here. I’m looking forward to play baseball and that’s one thing I can control.”
The Cubs reached an agreement with Ian Happ to avoid arbitration, a year after the outfielder took it to a hearing and won his case against the club.
With the nature of this spring after a 99-day lockout, it was a rushed schedule for every team in baseball to solidify arbitration cases.
Contreras is set to be a free agent after the season and has watched his name brought up in trade rumors for the last few years.
“I think the first year I heard about trade rumors was 2019,” he said. “That was the first year that I really felt like it was super distracting for me. But I learned from that. 2020 was the same. 2021 was the same. So right now, I’m really good with it.
“When you hear trade rumors, it’s because you’re doing something good on the field that another team might want. If they can get good packages, they’re gonna do whatever is best for the team. Whatever happens, happens. That’s it.”
There is still the possibility Contreras and the Cubs reach an agreement on a long-term extension. But nothing is guaranteed and he understands the reality of the situation.
“I think it’s gonna be really hard to talk in season because there’s gonna be no time,” Contreras said. “Especially right now, we’re already two weeks away from Opening Day. It’s gonna be really tough.
“I’m not focused on getting an extension; I’m not focused on arbitration. I’m focused on winning, I’m focused on competing on the field with my teammates. I’m focused on being the best that I can be for them.”
Contreras will turn 30 in May and is a 2-time All-Star. He has a career .807 OPS and has racked up 16.9 WAR in 6 seasons in Chicago.
So how will he avoid the distractions and focus on his play on the field?
“Have fun with my guys,” Contreras said. “I love my team. I love the Cubs. I love my teammates and my main focus right now is to play baseball, stay healthy, stay on the field and that’s the only thing that I can control.”
David Ross doesn’t believe Contreras will be distracted by his contract this season, either.
“I’m extremely confident Willson’s in a good head space,” Ross said. “I don’t know that even I’ve seen him in such a good place since I’ve been here. He seems eager to lead, to set an example. He understands he’s gonna make a lot of money either way. The details get worked out. His job is just to go play. Can’t control any of those extra factors.
“I think just watching and being around him for a long time, he’s in a really good spot.”