Contreras, Cardinals agree to 5-year deal

December 9th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- A Cardinals franchise determined to leave MLB’s Winter Meetings with a catcher for the 2023 season and one to replace legend Yadier Molina landed star free-agent .

Contreras confirmed he was coming to St. Louis in a post on The Players Tribune on Thursday, and the club announced the agreement on Friday. By agreeing to the contract -- for five years with a club option for 2028 -- Contreras reached the largest financial deal in Cards history among players who hadn’t previously played for the organization. Terms of the deal were not announced, but it's for $87.5 million, a source told’s Mark Feinsand. Another former Cub, Dexter Fowler, signed with the Cardinals for $82.5 million and five years in 2016.

St. Louis and Contreras reached an agreement on the annual average value of his deal on Monday, said a source familiar with the negotiations. However, the length of the contract caused talks to hit a snag on Tuesday, with the 30-year-old Contreras pushing for a fifth year. Contreras’ representatives were also negotiating with the Astros, but ultimately, the Cards landed their top target when they agreed to extend the length of the offer to a fifth year.

Contreras came to the Cardinals following a strong recommendation from Molina, the franchise’s iconic catcher of the past 19 seasons. Molina, along with legendary slugger Albert Pujols, retired following the 2022 season -- one that ended with a two-game loss to the Phillies in the National League Wild Card Series. Marmol said on Tuesday that he came away from the Contreras meeting highly impressed with the catcher’s inner drive and will to win.

“We talked about loving winning, and this is a guy who loves to win,” Marmol said.

Signing Contreras was the Cards' way of proverbially killing two birds with one stone -- or two birds on one bat in St. Louis parlance. Not only will he be their everyday catcher, Contreras will also hit fifth in the order to offer lineup protection for Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.

Had St. Louis not landed Contreras, it was prepared to intensify trade talks with the A's and Blue Jays about Sean Murphy and Alejandro Kirk. Such a move likely would have cost the Cardinals big leaguers Dylan Carlson or Nolan Gorman, or coveted prospect Masyn Winn.

Contreras has the potential to be an upgrade offensively for a Cards squad that struggled to find much production out of Molina, Andrew Knizner and Ivan Herrera. In seven MLB seasons, Contreras has slashed .256/.349/.459 with 117 home runs and 365 RBIs. He hit a career-best .282 in 2016 and has hit at least 20 home runs in four seasons. He drove in a career-high 74 runs in ’17, and he’s played more than 100 games in five seasons. Contreras can also be used as a DH, allowing him to fill another of the franchise’s holes following the departure of Pujols.

The addition of Contreras, along with Arenado’s decision not to opt out of his contract, allowed the Cardinals to accomplish two of their primary goals for the offseason. They did lose free-agent pitcher José Quintana, who started Game 1 of the playoffs, to the Mets in a two-year deal that will reportedly pay him $13 million a season. Pitching was one area where St. Louis -- which already has six starters -- could afford to take a hit.

With a large financial commitment in place to Contreras, the Cardinals almost assuredly will drop out of the market for a top-tier shortstop, headlined by Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts (who is reportedly headed to the Padres). Tommy Edman, who won an NL Gold Glove Award in 2021 at second base, successfully converted to shortstop in '22.

Contreras was named to his third career All-Star team in 2022, following nods in the '18 and '19 seasons. One of the remaining members of the Cubs' 2016 World Series club, Contreras tried to take on more of a vocal leadership role with the '22 squad while being a mentor for some younger players on a Chicago team in another rebuilding period.

Contreras played the first half of the 2022 season amid constant trade rumors and chatter about his uncertain future with the only ballclub he had ever played for. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2009, converted to catching as a Minor Leaguer and grew into the longest-tenured player in the organization.