Willson Contreras met with Chicago Cubs president Jed Hoyer von Friday morning for the first time since Hoyer decided Tuesday to keep his All-Star wide receiver for the rest of the season.
“I saw him early in the morning when I was doing my workouts,” Contreras said Friday after the Cubs’ 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. “He walked past me and said ‘Hello.’
“But at any time we will talk. They were here. That is the most important”.
Whether Contreras will stay with the Cubs after the 2022 season is anyone’s guess, but he has at least nearly two months to convince Hoyer why he deserves to stay with the organization long-term.
Contreras let his bat do the talking all Friday in what everyone called his “homecoming” game. His two-run home run in the eighth inning led the Cubs to a comeback win over the Marlins, snapping a five-game losing streak.
“I’m happy to be with the Cubs for the rest of the year,” Contreras said. “Why not? We have really good chemistry in the clubhouse, a really good fan base. I know right now this is not a winning team, but I know at some point we will become a winning team.
“They have done a good job of getting the farm (system) up. I’ve heard a lot about prospects in the organization that are really exciting. Hopefully, with time and experience, they will be the best.”
Cubs fans showered Contreras with love before his first-inning at-bat and again after his no-doubt homer off Dylan Floro in the eighth, shortly after Nick Madrigal led off the inning with a single. Madrigal had the Cubs’ first hit of the game, a single leading off the sixth off reliever Huascar Brazobán, heading into the inning.
Justin Steele struck out 10 in 4 ⅔ innings, while reliever Rowan Wick pitched 1 ⅓ scoreless innings for the win.
But the day belonged to Contreras, who was hugging everyone in sight the last time he left Wrigley after assuming, like everyone else, that he would be traded before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
“Last time it was like saying goodbye, it was an emotional moment,” Contreras said. “Today was really a high-energy moment.”
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Hoyer, who was unavailable Friday (he is scheduled to speak to reporters next week), said via Zoom call Tuesday that he held on to Contreras and Ian Happ because he didn’t feel the return offered was worth it. It’s hard to imagine the Cubs wouldn’t bring back enough talent for a couple of All-Stars, and keeping Contreras was an especially risky move if they didn’t re-sign him. Happ has another year before he becomes a free agent, so it was no surprise that he stayed.
Contreras hopes the story is over and he can regain some normalcy for the final weeks of a lost season. He admitted that it was exhausting to go through the anxiety of the last month, especially during the last few days. When he arrived in St. Louis on Wednesday, the day after the trade deadline, he told his teammates, “My eyes are tired. I just want to be somewhere sleeping.”
But after Friday’s game, Contreras said he feels “more relaxed” and can focus on the job at hand. He still wants to win and can develop his stats to increase his value on the free agent market.
Cubs fans have spoken loudly about their preference for Hoyer to retain Contreras, who has repeatedly said he wants to stay, even with the first-year rebuild. Last week in San Francisco he told reporters: “I care a lot about winning. I know this team is not cut out to win this year, not even close. But I also learned a lot from this team, from losing.”
It’s been a long season for the Cubs, and Contreras, more than anyone else, has been through the shredder.
But he knows exactly where he wants to be, and he’s still here.
Whenever Hoyer wants to talk, Contreras is ready to listen.