It was only a matter of time before the Cubs felt comfortable bringing him up; they said goodbye to their veteran insurance policy behind the plate, Tim Federowicz.
The Cubs will address the move Friday when the team is back in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But after two months of watching Contreras rake and throw runners out, they obviously felt the time was right. He'll mix in with Miguel Montero and David Ross, and like Albert Almora Jr. he could at least be used for defense late in games.
The Cubs have struggled to limit opponents on the basepaths for the second year in a row. Montero has thrown out only two of 30 attempted base stealers (7 percent). He also has been behind the plate for 16 wild pitches and three passed balls. Some of his worst moments came in the just-completed series against the Washington Nationals, perhaps pushing the Cubs in Contreras' direction.
Meanwhile, Contreras has nailed 31 percent (11 for 36) of runners trying to steal and is known as an overall sound defensive backstop.
"We've been trying [to improve]," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday regarding throwing out runners. "It is what it is. So far our record is pretty good so it hasn't hurt us a lot to this point."
It was starting to hurt a little, evidenced by a key run crossing the plate in a one-run affair earlier Wednesday in a loss to the Nationals. In any case, Contreras arrives having taken to the catching position rather quickly after converting from being an infielder. And his bat has come alive over the past two seasons; he was hitting .350 with a .439 on-base percentage at Iowa this year.
The Cubs now feel he can contribute to the team with baseball's best record. Here is vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod discussing Contreras' timeline to the majors:
"When we came here in 2012 he was a long ways from where he is now," McLeod said. "He was very enthusiastic and passionate, so there were actually a lot of things behind the plate that had to be calmed down. He was a high-energy player who didn't know when to slow the motor. He loved showing off his arm. He would back-pick a lot and throw balls down the line. So a lot had to be done to calm him down. You loved the passion because he worked hard from day one, but it's been a continual process with him.
"In my opinion what clicked was playing in the Venezuelan winter league in 2014 when he was around veteran guys down there. When he came to spring camp last year he talked about that experience and how good that was for him. We saw a different guy last year and it carried over to his season. There was a more mature approach to the way he was going about things. We're lucky for it because he was Rule 5 eligible the year before. Anyone could have had him for $50,000 and now he's one of the more sought-after prospects."
And now he's in a Cubs uniform in a pennant race. It won't hurt Contreras to have Ross around for half a season to help him get acclimated, and perhaps we'll see him start once a week or so. The strategy with him today won't necessarily be the strategy next week or next month. Maddon is likely to let things play out and see how the pitching staff takes to the rookie. Can he call a game properly with this pitching staff? That's the big question. He'll have plenty of help in the form of catching coach Mike Borzello and pitching coach Chris Bosio.
There's always the debate on whether Contreras is better served playing every day in Iowa -- the Cubs have to address the same thing with Almora -- but most of the time there's little harm in having a rookie soak up the major leagues with some veteran help even if he's not playing every day.
And maybe he will be soon.