ST. LOUIS — The sight of Ian Happ and Willson Contreras embracing in the home dugout at Wrigley Field represented a farewell moment for what seemed to be in store for the Chicago Cubs All-Stars.
That moment a week ago now becomes a reminder of the ups and downs leading up to the trade deadline, the uncertainties of the unknown. Both players thought July 26 was their last at Wrigley in a Cubs uniform. However, Contreras and Happ will return to their teammates on Friday for the Cubs’ next homestand.
Despite the Cubs’ 6-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, the joy persisted. Contreras could barely keep a smile from his face after president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer did not exchange it due to insufficient value in return.
Meanwhile, Happ joked that it was the media’s fault for making him think they would change him: “All those stories and the cameras from the last two days at Wrigley, it’s all up to you.”
However, Happ understands his situation. His final year of team control in 2023 before free agency made him an attractive option at the trade deadline. He knew there was a chance the Cubs would trade him.
“One hundred percent wanted to be here,” Happ said Tuesday night. “I wanted to be with these guys. I want to be in this clubhouse still wearing this jersey. And the city and the fans, the team means a lot to me and I’m very happy about that”.
While Contreras knows he’ll likely be playing his final two months with the Cubs as free agency looms, now complicated by a possible qualifying offer, the Cubs could move Happ back in the offseason. When asked what he thinks his next step forward with the Cubs is, Happ replied, “I don’t know.”
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“Play these last two months and really enjoy it,” he said. “There is still a lot of work to do for me personally. Every day there are things to modify, things to learn and things to work on. And then as a team, there’s a lot of guys in this group that are going to be here next year and have a chance to make a big impact.”
Manager David Ross broke the news to Contreras and Happ in the clubhouse during batting practice that they weren’t going anywhere.
“It took a weight off my shoulders,” Contreras said. “Today was a long day. I was really excited to see what was going to happen. Once Ross told me I’m still a Cub, it was amazing.”
Contreras thought a trade was imminent because of how the latest trade deadline played out for his teammates who were impending free agents.
“I’m very happy to stay with the Cubs,” he said. “I would like to thank all the organizations that have reached out to the Cubs asking about me.”
The uncertainty about the immediate future of Contreras was resolved this Tuesday. It’s unknown how, or if, he’ll fit into the Cubs’ long-term future, but with no contract extension in place before the offseason, he again faces potentially his last games as a Cubs.
“One thing is for sure,” Contreras said, “tomorrow is another game, so I have to stay focused. This is all I can say.”