Willson Contreras is going to St. Louis to replace Yadier Molina at catcher, agreeing to an $87.5 million, five-year contract with the Cardinals on Wednesday.
The addition of Contreras fills a major void for St. Louis, which won the NL Central this season with a 93-69 record. Molina retired after spending his entire 19-year career with the Cardinals, making 10 All-Star teams and winning nine Gold Gloves.
Contreras was one of the Chicago Cubs’ last holdovers from their 2016 World Series championship. He made his big league debut that year and helped the franchise to its first title since 1908.
The fiery, strong-armed catcher hit .243 with 22 homers and 55 RBIs in 113 games in his last season with his first major league team. He was on the market this summer — leading to an emotional day at Wrigley Field for what looked like his final home game with Chicago — but he remained with the team after the trade deadline.
The 30-year-old Contreras received a $19.65 million qualifying offer from Chicago, but he turned down the proposal.
Contreras was the best option in a thin market for free agent catchers that also included Christian Vázquez and Gary Sánchez.
Contreras also has played first base, third base and the corner outfield spots in the majors. The three-time All-Star made 39 starts at designated hitter this year.
The Venezuela native is a .256 hitter with 117 homers and 365 RBIs in 734 career games over seven seasons. He hit a career-best 24 homers in 2019 and drove in a career-high 74 runs in 2017.