Brewers Feel Catcher William Contreras Is An ‘MVP Candidate’

The Milwaukee Brewers are ecstatic to have William Contreras in the lineup every day, while Atlanta Braves fans see him as the "one that got away"
Milwaukee Brewers catcher William Contreras has been one of the best backstops in baseball since being traded from the Atlanta Braves to Milwaukee after the 2022 season.
Milwaukee Brewers catcher William Contreras has been one of the best backstops in baseball since being traded from the Atlanta Braves to Milwaukee after the 2022 season. / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves rarely lose a trade. 

President of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos is known for turning a few nickels into a dollar via trade, obtaining Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox), Matt Olson (Oakland Athletics), and Raisel Iglesias (Los Angeles Angels) in deals that are considered lopsided at best. 

But one deal that’s still up in the air as to who “won” the deal is the acquisition of catcher Sean Murphy, who came to Atlanta from the Oakland Athletics in a three-team trade in December of 2022. 

The players that Atlanta sent to Oakland aren’t exactly missed in the Braves organization - five of the six players moved by Atlanta arguably wouldn’t have roles on the current roster, with pitching prospects Royer Salinas, Freddy Tarnok, Kyle Muller, Justin Yeager, and veteran catcher Manny Piña not seen as better than the alternatives that Atlanta has now in the rotation, bullpen, and lineup.

But the sixth and best player sent by Atlanta in the deal was the controversial part of the trade, one that Braves fans are still grappling with to this day: catcher William Contreras. 

Affectionately known as “Wild Bill”, Contreras went to the third team involved in the trade, the Milwaukee Brewers, as the necessary piece for them to give outfielder Esteury Ruiz to the Athletics in the deal. With catcher Shea Langeliers coming to Oakland in the previous offseason’s Matt Olson deal, Contreras wasn’t that valuable to the Athletics but they coveted the speed and defense of Ruiz, who was acquired by Milwaukee when they shipped out closer Josh Hader just months earlier. 

The 26-year-old Contreras, who was coming off of an All-Star season as a designated hitter with the Braves when he was traded, has been everything Milwaukee hoped he could be and more. “We felt like he had a chance to be a frontline catcher, and he’s been everything and more,” Brewers general manager Matt Arnold told The Athletic. “He’s just been a tremendous talent for us — and he’s competing as an MVP candidate, honestly.”

Entering Sunday, Contreras is batting .342/.427/.526, with a NL-leading 36 runs scored and 30 RBIs. He leads the Brewers in runs, RBIs, hits (52), and all three components of the slash line. 

And he’s doing all of this while making just $739,000 in his final season before reaching arbitration. 

His defense is also markedly improved from his time in Atlanta, with his Statcast defensive rating ging from a 7th percentile finish in 2022 (-7 Outs Above Average) to 89th percentile (+8 OAA) last season, one of the largest single-season improvements in Sttcast history.  

Most surprisingly is that Contreras has played in all 39 of the team’s games so far. In the era of load management and workload mitigation, the young catcher has started 33 games behind the plate and served as the designated hitter in the six games he’s not started as catcher. “He’s a warrior in that he wants to compete every day,” Pat Murphy said. “He doesn’t want to back off; he doesn’t know how to back off. He just wants to attack. It’s hard, because he doesn’t ever want to be out of there and we need him to stay healthy. But you can’t tell a lion not to hunt.”

Contreras finished his first year in Milwaukee as the NL’s Silver Slugger recipient and came in 11th in the MVP voting after batting .289/.367/.457 in 141 games (108 at catcher). 

While Contreras was reportedly heartbroken to leave Atlanta - he tweeted eight “broken heart” emojis after the trade was announced - he admitted that he understands why it happened. “It was a little bit of a difficult moment there, because I wasn’t expecting a trade,” Contreras told The Athletic through an interpreter. “Once it passed, you understand this is a business and it was time to take advantage of the opportunity the Brewers gave me and the confidence they put in me.”

For Atlanta, they’ve gotten quality performances from Sean Murphy, who signed a six-year, $73M contract extension just days after the trade was finalized. Murphy, a 2021 AL Gold Glove winner with Oakland, was a 2023 All-Star after a .306/.400/.599 first half before struggles with the infamous Atlanta heat caused him to struggle down the stretch. (Murphy is currently on the injured list due to an oblique injury suffered in the team’s opener.)  

But the “what if” of Contreras will always linger for Braves fans. He was well-liked in the clubhouse and among the fanbase, a sentiment shared by the catcher. “I did not expect to leave the Bravos organization in this way,” he wrote on twitter after the trade, “but I am here thanking you for all the opportunities that they gave me, I knew how to make the most of them, thanks to the fans for giving me their support.” 

Lindsay Crosby


Managing Editor for Braves Today and the 2023 IBWAA Prospects/Minors Writer of the Year. You can reach him at