MESA, Ariz. — Whatever frustrations Pedro Strop might have kept bottled up during the playoffs didn't change how he feels about his Cubs teammates or living in Chicago or the energy at Wrigley Field.
"I think if there were any hard feelings we wouldn't be doing this extension," general manager Jed Hoyer said Friday after announcing the deal that could keep Strop in a Cubs uniform through the 2019 season.
The Cubs framed Strop's fade into the postseason background as a matter of bad timing after he tore the meniscus in his left knee in August. Otherwise, manager Joe Maddon in theory wouldn't have felt the need to push Aroldis Chapman so hard during the World Series.
The Cubs backed up their story by avoiding an arbitration hearing with a $5.5 million settlement for 2017 before camp opened in Arizona. The two sides continued negotiating, agreeing to a one-year extension worth $5.85 million and a $6.25 million club option for 2019 with a $500,000 buyout. For that sense of comfort and security, Strop sacrificed the chance to sell himself as a possible closer next winter.
"I just feel happy that I know I'm going to be here," Strop said. "I don't care about the role or whatever.
"I like to win better than roles."
It's not just a talking point with Strop, who memorably high-stepped down the third-base line next to Kris Bryant in a walk-off win that became a 2015 Sports Illustrated cover and a blown-up image players see on the way from the Wrigley Field clubhouse out to the tunnel leading into the dugout.
"I have a lot of energy," Strop said. "Every time I walk into the clubhouse, I always come in positive, you know, waking people up when they're sleeping and just trying to have good moments and just play ball, play the game the right way."
With Wade Davis and Koji Uehara positioned to become free agents after this season, the Cubs wanted to invest in their bullpen and clubhouse, where Strop is among the most popular players and a bilingual presence buzzing around the room.
"We don't want to be in a position of always having to rebuild the bullpen," Hoyer said. "Pedro's been a rock for us down there. His pitching is a big part of why we wanted to bring him back. But it's also who he is.
"He puts every person around him in a better mood every day. This guy's always beaming. He's always in a great mood. But under that huge smile, he's an awesome competitor, and this guy wants the ball in the biggest spots. We want more guys like that."
Since coming over in the franchise-altering Jake Arrieta trade with the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of the 2013 season, Strop has notched 84 holds, put up a 0.98 WHIP and a 2.68 ERA and accounted for 232 appearances. During that time, the right-hander leads all National League relievers with a .173 batting average against and ranks third in opponents' OPS (.530) and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (10.82).
"We got these guys in our clubhouse that are just great to have (around) beyond being good," Maddon said. "He's at the top of the list. He's always upbeat. He's always ready. He's always there for somebody else. And then he's got one of the best sliders in all of baseball."
Maddon didn't show that same level of trust in Strop during the playoffs, but the force of his talent and personality — the crooked-hat look, chest-pounding celebrations and love for the game — helped change this team's identity and turn the Cubs into World Series champs.
"I felt for Pedro," Hoyer said. "I felt like he rushed as much as he could to get back on the field for the postseason, but he probably wasn't vintage Pedro Strop at any point down the stretch, just by nature of the timing. But when you look at the numbers he's put up over the last three years, he's been one of the best setup guys in the game."