Willson Contreras on All-Star selection: ‘I hope it’s not my last time wearing the Cubs jersey’
Contreras claimed his third career All-Star selection. He beat out the Braves’ Travis d’Arnaud.
LOS ANGELES — It took awhile for Cubs catcher Willson Contreras to process the news Friday after he was voted in as a 2022 All-Star starter.
It was one thing for early voting to suggest he’d be heading to the All-Star Game for the third time in his career. It was another for the feat to become official.
“It’s overwhelming for sure,” he said. “I have a lot of things in my head right now.”
MLB announced Friday that Contreras had beaten out the Braves’ Travis d’Arnaud to start behind the plate. He joins a National League squad that includes Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Marlins second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr., Padres third baseman Manny Machado, Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Giants outfielder Joc Pederson.
“He deserves everything coming his way,” manager David Ross said of Contreras. “He’s done a phenomenal job for us. . . . In pretty rare company in Cubs history too, starting his third All Star game.”
Nine other players in franchise history, including just one other catcher, have made at least three starts in an All-Star game: Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, Stan Hack, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Don Kessinger, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo and Sammy Sosa.
This All-Star Game could also be Contreras’ last as a Cub. He’s in his final year of club control, the trade deadline is nearing, and speculation about his future continues to swirl.
“I hope it’s not my last time wearing the Cubs jersey, to be honest,” Contreras said. “I don’t see myself going anywhere else, but this is business. And we will have to understand the business now. If the Cubs can get a really good [trade] package for myself, they’re going to do it. If they don’t do it, I’d be more than thankful and proud to stay here with the Cubs and with my teammates.”
Contreras, 30, has been a Cub for almost half his life. The club signed him out of Venezuela in 2009, when he was a 17-year-old third baseman.
If Contreras could give advice to that younger version of himself, he’d tell him to “trust in the process.”
Contreras continued: “A lot of times in the minor leagues you put a lot of pressure on yourself to get to the big leagues, but obviously time will tell what we want to become.”
The process of converting to catcher, which Contreras began in 2012, prolonged his time in the minors. But when he debuted in 2016, he was just in time to contribute to a World Series title.
Two years later, Contreras was named an All-Star starter for the first time. And in 2019, he became the first Cubs catcher since Hartnett in the 1930s to start in consecutive All-Star Games.
Contreras entered Friday leading National League catchers in most categories, including batting average (.274), on-base percentage (.392), slugging percentage (.498) and wins above replacement (2.9), according to FanGraphs. Contreras was also tied for first with Dodgers catcher Will Smith in walk rate (11.3%) and home runs (13).
“I’m really thankful and proud of everything that I’ve done here,” Contreras said. “Thankful to the Chicago Cubs for giving me the opportunity to start playing pro baseball. And I would love nothing more than to play for the Chicago Cubs the rest of my life. And obviously, those are kind of things that are out of my control. But I’m really excited and proud and humbled to be a Chicago Cub.”
On Friday, Contreras donned his blue Cubs jersey and joined his team at Dodger Stadium, where in a week and a half he’ll represent the Cubs in the All-Star game at least one more time.