Is this his last Chicago Cubs homestand?

By on September 28, 2022 0

Willson Contreras already said goodbye to Wrigley Field two months ago when a trade seemed imminent.

This time, with another departure imminent, Contreras just wants to have some fun with his Chicago Cubs teammates.

Contreras was released from the injured list on Tuesday and was back in the lineup as a designated hitter, his first game since Aug. 30. in front of local North Side audiences.

He scored a single in the Cubs’ 2-1 victory. A potential double in round four was called off on the replay after Contreras failed to stay on the sack while a tag was applied.

Right-hander Marcus Stroman delivered one of his best home starts of the season, limiting the Phillies to one run and four hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked one. Since leaving IL in early July, Stroman has a 2.74 ERA in his last 15 starts.

Christopher Morel’s home run off Zack Wheeler, Morel’s 15th homer of the season, gave the Cubs an early lead in third. With the game tied at seventh, Yan Gomes came out on top against the Phillies bullpen with an RBI brace.

Contreras, who had been sidelined with a sprained left ankle, expressed before the game the importance of being able to return for the final homestand.

“We all know I’ve been here for 14 years, and we don’t know if there’s a real goodbye or just a moment for a few months,” he said. “That’s what I can do at this point, have fun and do my best.”

As much as Contreras tries to simplify what could be his final nine games with the Cubs — including a season-ending three-game streak in Cincinnati — he’s admittedly given a lot of thought to what comes next in free agency.

“But at the same time, I don’t control the market, so the market will speak for itself,” Contreras said. “We just want to do it and see what happens.”

Questions already surround Contreras’ free agent prospects. He turns 31 in May and has suffered lower-body injuries during his career, a worrying combination for a receiver. His power output, however, puts him among the best at his position offensively. Contreras has a 129 OPS+ in 107 games this year, part of a four-year streak that includes a 119 OPS+.

While he doesn’t rank highly as a field coach, his arm and back-picking ability adds value, a noticeable strength with bases increasing in size next season, which could increase theft attempts.

Without providing specifics, Contreras has an idea of ​​what he is looking for in his next team. When asked if victory or financial security were more important, he instead cited an overall desire.

“For me, it’s more the feeling that I want to be somewhere than I’m desired,” he replied. “I want to feel like they’re going to appreciate what I’m doing on and off the pitch. They appreciate what I bring to the clubhouse and what I can do.

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The Cubs look set to make a qualifying offer to Contreras by the November deadline. President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer indicated at the trade deadline that they hadn’t moved Contreras because the other teams weren’t offering appropriate value.

For the Cubs, receiving a compensatory draft pick for Contreras was part of the equation — if he declines the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere.

Contreras has taken a diplomatic approach and plans to keep his options open if the Cubs make him a qualifying offer.

“I’m not going to give you an answer,” he said. “I will wait and see what happens next. But we have to think about it. »

The Cubs’ performance since the All-Star break — a 33-29 record through Tuesday — hasn’t changed Contreras’ perception of how far the franchise is from a winning team. He reiterated his July 31 comments.

“It’s still the same,” Contreras said. “I know we have pitch. I know we have a very good agricultural system. But instead of getting closer to victory, we’re still going to have a lot of work to do.

“I’m being honest. I mean, we have a lot of pitching in the farm system. This team is going to need some balance like we had in 2016. We had all the veterans but we had a lot of young talent. That balance created a good chemistry. Guys who can guide young talent or can be their support, that’s something they’re probably looking for next year or however long it takes.