Heading into the 2023 season, it seemed like the NL Central division was set to be a battle between the same to teams as last year. The Milwaukee Brewers would be attempting to reclaim the division from the St. Louis Cardinals.
But while the Brewers have been at or near the top of the division all season, the Cardinals have been nowhere to be found. Though they currently sit in 4th place in the NL Central with a 46-57 record, they've sat in dead last for a majority of the year and had a period where they had the worst record in the entire National League.
At the center of the Cardinals' drama at one point was catcher Willson Contreras. After signing him to a big free agent contract this last offseason from the Brewers' fellow NL Central rivals, the Chicago Cubs, it has looked early on like a move that may have backfired.
Now, with the 2023 MLB trade deadline approaching, the Cardinals are self-admittedly likely to be sellers. While an entire rebuild isn't imminent, meaning franchise cornerstones like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt aren't going anywhere, rumors started floating around that Contreras could be on the move. Well, apparently that just might not be the reality.
Brewers fans shouldn't expect the Cardinals to trade away offseason acquisition Willson Contreras at the deadline.
It may very well be possible that the Cardinals still make Contreras available at this year's trade deadline. But as Robert Murray writes for FanSided, a trade actually happening is very unlikely for more than one reason.
Murray points to two main reasons. The first is his contract, which was a five-year, $87.5MM deal that is quite pricey for a 31-year-old catcher. It also comes with a full no-trade clause, so finding another team to take that on that Contreras actually would want to go to would be difficult, to say the least.
Murray also points to Contreras's background on defense. Per Murray, "Contreras has holes in his game that worried teams dating back to the last trade deadline. How he would handle working with a whole new pitching staff in the middle of the season."
Exacerbating that worry is the situation that occurred earlier this season. In early May, the Cardinals stated publicly that they were pulling Contreras from starting catching duties entirely and were instead looking to possibly get him some time in the outfield. They ended up reversing that decision a week later, but it started to show their own thoughts on his catching prowess.
Contreras is actually having a normal offensive season by his standards. His .248/.343/.429 slash line with 11 homers, 40 RBI, and a 1.9 bWAR are on pace to fall a little under but still close to his career marks. So it says a lot that his defense is that big a concern to overshadow that fact.
As a player who has had success against the Brewers at times in the past, fans probably would have been plenty happy to see him traded out of the division before the trade deadline. Unfortuntely, it sounds like they likely won't end up getting their wish.