As the Cubs took batting practice before Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals, Ian Happ and Willson Contreras remained in the clubhouse.
Contreras and Happ had frequented the rumor mill over the last month, and uncertainty around them lingered as the 5 p.m. trade deadline approached.
Until Cubs manager David Ross came to them with some relieving news: they were not getting traded.
“Lots of hugs. Lots of hugs,” Happ said. “Gave Rossy a hug, gave Willy a hug. Happy to be here.
“Had to make phone calls and tell everybody to stand down from the panic.”
While many had long expected a Contreras trade — he’s set to become a free agent this winter, and the Cubs dealt three All-Stars in similar shoes last summer — Happ was a different case.
The left fielder is under club control through 2023 and putting together a breakout campaign that includes his first career All-Star nod.
It was only in recent weeks that trade rumors and speculation heated up around Happ. With many contenders showing interest in him, his future was uncertain, putting him in a bit of limbo.
He was emotional speaking about his time with the Cubs during their final homestand before the deadline last week.
“That was your fault, all of you,” Happ joked. “All the stories and the cameras the last couple days at Wrigley, it’s all on you guys.
“Going into it, I knew there was chance. For me, a different situation, obviously, contract-wise and having a year of control and all those things. I didn't think that I was going to be traded. Definitely two weeks before didn't think it was going to happen.
“And then the momentum started to pick up, you guys started to write a bunch of stories and before you know it, you think you're gone.”
Happ said several times in recent weeks he wanted to remain a Cub, a sentiment he reiterated after Tuesday’s 6-0 loss to the Cardinals.
"I wanted to be here," Happ said. "I wanted to be with these guys, wanted to be in this clubhouse still wearing this jersey. The city, the fanbase, team means a lot to me. I’m really happy about that."
Happ has felt support from the city and this fanbase through the highs and lows of his career and all the trade speculation.
And with Cubs fans traveling well to St. Louis, where Happ has enjoyed a few memorable moments, including his big-league debut, he felt their support again Tuesday night.
"To have this be a positive and not a negative is pretty great," he said.
As for what his future may hold beyond this season, even Happ can’t be sure. With his club control extending through next season, the Cubs always had the ability to revisit a trade this winter, or perhaps even a long-term deal.
For now, a weight has been lifted off his shoulders, and his focus can return solely to baseball.
“Still a lot of work to do for me personally every day,” Happ said. “There’s things to tweak, there's things to learn and there’s things to work on 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 huge impact and learn a lot and all those things. You go out there as a team every day trying to compete but trying to learn and get better as a group.”
Contributing from St. Louis: Gordon Wittenmyer