ST. LOUIS – One of baseball’s most-storied rivalries will get a little more interesting next season.
Longtime Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is finalizing a contract to join the St. Louis Cardinals out of free agency. The deal is reportedly worth $87.5 million over five years.
The Cardinals have not yet announced the contract, but it appears to be near complete. When it becomes official, Contreras will become the 325th player to suit up for both franchises.
With the rivalry dating back nearly 130 years, that means around 2-3 active players each year, on average, have had experience with both teams. Among them include Hall of Famers, All-Stars and cup-of-coffee athletes.
According to Baseball Reference, Contreras will become at least the 135th player to have joined the Cardinals after playing at least one previous season with the Cubs. Some interesting history for Contreras in that regard…
- He will be the first former Cub to join St. Louis since the Cardinals traded for Jose Quintana in July.
- He will be the first player to directly join the Cardinals out of free agency right after a Cubs campaign since Dexter Fowler in 2017.
- He will be the first player to join the Cardinals after spending the rest of his MLB career otherwise with the Cubs since Ryan Theriot in 2011.
- He will be the first catcher to join the Cardinals after a Cubs stint since Joe Girardi in 2003.
Who are some of the famous Cubs-turned-Cardinals players? Lou Brock, Dennis Eckersley, Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter are Hall-of-Famers who did it.
Other experienced names, but perhaps lesser-known players from a Cardinals standpoint, include Don Kessinger, Shawon Dunston and Jimmy Sheckard. All played 1,000 games with the Cubs before eventually joining the Cardinals. Contreras played in 734.
Journeyman Jamie Moyer holds the distinction as the oldest player to ever win an MLB Game at 48 years old in 2012. He played three seasons with the Cubs in the 1980s before joining the Cardinals in 1991, two of his eight career franchises.
Jon Lester, a catalyst in the Cubs rebuild and 2016 World Series, is one of the more notable names in recent history to play for the Cardinals after their division foe. He provided valuable innings in the 2021 stretch run for St. Louis.
Corey Patterson and the aforementioned Theriot played small, but pivotal roles on the 2011 World Series-title Cardinals. For both, it was their only season in St. Louis.
One Cub-turned-Cardinal held the throne of the most recent cycle in history until Nolan Arenado took it over last season. Mark Grudzielanek accomplished that feat in his only season with St. Louis in 2005.
St. Louis added Kent Bottenfield to its rotation in 1998 after two bullpen seasons with the Cubs. Bottenfield was one of several pieces involved in the trade the brought Gold Glove stalwart Jim Edmonds to the Cardinals. Edmonds played with the Cardinals from 2000-2007 before a small stint with the Cubs in 2008, a reversal of the trend continued by Contreras.
There are some fantastic baseball names, though players the average fan might not recall, who moved on from the Friendly Confines to Busch Stadium. That includes, but is not limited to, Cesar Izturis, Ray King, Heathcliff Slocumb, Sheriff Blake, Peanuts Lowrey and Sparky Adams.
Contreras will be the first primary starting catcher not named Yadier Molina for the Cardinals since 2004. A three-time All Star, he brings more than 350 games worth of experience against NL Central opponents.