ST. LOUIS — The Chicago Cubs were motivated to move their most valuable expiring contract if they received a tempting return.
This approach followed president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer’s philosophy in the run-up to last year’s trade deadline, in which a third of the Cubs’ opening-day roster was moved. But despite receiving interest from teams, impending free-agent wide receiver Willson Contreras is still a Cub.
“Just like last year, we were open to listening if someone would give us a piece that could really help our future, and we never crossed that threshold,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “Willson is a really valuable player. He has been a great Cub for six years. And we never got to that place where we felt comfortable making a deal to end his tenure here.”
A week-long preparation for Tuesday’s trade deadline had left Contreras ready for clarity.
shed tearsdrenched in applause of the Wrigley Field faithful last week and took a moment Sunday in San Francisco to appreciate what he anticipated would be his last game in a Cubs uniform. But when the 5 p.m. deadline passed Tuesday, Contreras and outfielder Ian Happ, the Cubs’ two MVPs, were still in the lineup for Game 1 of the series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch. Stadium.
The emotional toll of Contreras and Happ and how it played out publicly was not lost on Hoyer.
“Maybe it was just assumed that we would definitely move (to Contreras) and we never said anything,” Hoyer said. “We have been in communication with (Contreras) agents throughout the month, and we never gave anyone a message that said, we are going to change it at all costs.
“We never found an offer that came close to the right value.”
The Cubs made only two trades on Tuesday, move relievers David Robertson to the Philadelphia Phillies and Mychal Givens to the New York Mets. They were among the five total moves the Cubs made, not nearly the same roster revision as last year.
It makes more sense for the Cubs to hold onto Happ, who isn’t a free agent until after the 2023 season. If the Cubs are still motivated to move him, they could find more teams interested in the offseason beyond those positioned as contenders. on the deadline.
Because he was not traded, Contreras can receive a qualifying offer from the Cubs, barring a contract extension. However, that could hurt his free-agent market, because it would cost the signing team its first draft pick.
The Cubs would receive compensation in the draft if Contreras turned down the qualifying offer.
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“It was the same calculation we’ve always done, which is, what’s the value of a B comp pick? And how does that influence our decision making? Hoyer said. “How does this impact the free agent market? So basically it’s about going back to the same calculation that we’ve always had.”
The Cubs didn’t want to do anything halfway to the 2021 deadline, however, the roster through the last two months of this year could be much the same as the one that produced a 41-60 record entering Tuesday.
Last season’s sell-off created development opportunities over the last eight weeks for players like reliever Scott Effross, who became such a valuable bullpen arm that gave the Cubs the No. 4 prospect in the New York Yankees system. There are less clear paths for Triple-A players to take a look at over the next two months, unless the Cubs shed other veterans in the coming weeks.
Not being able to match a business partner for Contreras after the all-in takedown the Cubs embraced last year seems like a missed opportunity.
Hoyer disputed that characterization.
“Last year at deadline things lined up for us where we really motivated buyers at the right times,” he said, “and I think this year, in a way, makes me realize how lucky we were. last year from the standpoint of prospects of being able to accomplish what we did. This year we never got over that value, specifically when it comes to Willson, so I don’t see it as being wasted.
“It really depends on who you’re talking to and how motivated they are to win a title to bring an All-Star-caliber player into their clubhouse, and this year we just didn’t find that.”