On Wednesday night, the Chicago Cubs capped off an incredible game by walking off the Milwaukee Brewers in the tenth inning. Rookie and 22-year-old sensation Christopher Morel was responsible for the game-winning sacrifice fly. However, what many may not have seen is the moment before when Willson Contreras took his leadership role in stride.
As you can see in the background, Morel looks over toward Contreras and the dugout to collect himself. Morel faced an 0-2 count with Jason Heyward at third base. Any ball deep enough in the outfield could win the game. In Morel's case, he was in need of a reset. Enter Willson Contreras.
As seen in the clip, Contreras, like an older brother in the stands at his younger brother's baseball game, tells Morel to take a deep breath. Morel typically takes deep breaths in between pitches, but Contreras taking the time in the on deck circle to ensure Morel was ready for the walk-off moment is the sign of a leader.
On the Field
Through the first two months of baseball in 2022, Contreras has been the best catcher offensively in the league. Aside from hitting home run No. 100, the Cubs' backstop is slashing .277/.395/.514 with eight home runs, nine doubles, and 19 RBI. Often batting in the lead-off spot or two-hole, Contreras has been a spark plug for a Cubs offense that has been anemic at times this season. His .909 OPS is best among qualified catchers in MLB. In addition, his 41 hits rank first, his eight home runs rank first, and his 31 runs scored also rank first as of June 2 for all catchers.
Contreras has been an offensive juggernaut. Yes, the power is present. However, his nearly .400 OBP shows how effective Contreras has been at working great plate appearances and drawing walks. Quite literally, he is the best catcher in baseball by a large margin.
In the Clubhouse
As noted earlier, Contreras has taken on a leadership role within the Cubs organization. Although Jason Heyward, a consummate professional, is still on the team, Contreras is the bonafide leader in Chicago.
Contreras has meant so much to the youth, that he is perfect to lead the next generation of Cubs. Check out this clip from Christopher Morel's interview postgame with Taylor McGregor.
"That's why I love him." As a reader, absorb that. Think about that statement. Contreras is beloved by his teammates. He's also beloved by the fan base and the city. Even with business in mind, why would a team want to get rid of a player such as Contreras? He's good for the organization on the field, for the future, and even for the pocketbooks of ownership. That said, enough money talk, this is about Willy.
Once upon a time, Contreras was the young buck on a team littered with veterans. Gaining that championship experience as a rookie was invaluable for Contreras. Now, he can pass down the things he learned from the old core to this new wave of youth coming to Chicago one piece at a time.
Extend the Man
This is a no-brainer. It's time to extend Willson Contreras. With the DH in the NL and his athleticism, he can continue to play other positions as he ages to keep his bat as dynamic as it is now. In addition, his veteran leadership and ability to mentor the next wave of players coming to Chicago is more valuable than the haul of prospects they might receive for trading him.
We've seen his impact on Christopher Morel so far. To be honest, that's way more valuable than a few top prospects. It's time: extend Willson Contreras.