ST. LOUIS — Willson Contreras just wanted it to finally be over. He said that five or six times in about three minutes while talking to writers after Sunday’s game in San Francisco.
So much for that.
After a tear-filled two days at home that included standing ovations and a mutual lovefest in what all believed was his last two games as a Cub at Wrigley Field — followed by another choked-up scene and hugs with teammates Sunday — the Cubs didn’t trade either Contreras or trade-block teammate Ian Happ by Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Happ’s response was quick and public — tweeting a celebratory GIF.
Contreras posted a less clear message on Instagram: a picture of himself leaning over while on deck in San Francisco and what appears to be a sign-language “I love you” emoji.
“I do feel for him on the emotional toll,” team president Jed Hoyer said when asked about what he might be able to do to ease the toll on Contreras now that the pending free agent is back with the team for another two months after all the heart-tugging goodbyes.
“Saying goodbye to people, thinking you’ve played your last game with the Cubs and obviously not being traded — I think there’s a yo-yo impact on that,” Hoyer said. “But it’s not based on any mixed messaging from our side. We never said that. We never found a deal that came close to the right value.”
Hoyer wouldn’t comment on whether the Cubs have reconsidered their position on not discussing an extension with Contreras, but sources say the plan is to make him a qualifying offer that will net the Cubs a compensatory draft pick (and the accompanying bonus-pool allotment — perhaps a pick as high as something between 40th and 50th overall. It was that value that was weighed against the offers the Cubs ultimately received for him.
Hoyer, who said he was not immediately able to talk to either Contreras or Happ after the deadline because of how close it was to game time Tuesday, suggested that last year’s nine-man selloff that included three core players on expiring contracts in the final 20 hours might have influenced the assumption the players would be traded.
Well, that and the fact that has been this front office’s history even before Hoyer took over the top spot and the fact the Cubs did shop both players in talks for weeks — and the fact that they took Contreras down to the final 18 hours or so before a June arbitration hearing before settling on his 2022 salary.
“I’ve been in communication with his agents throughout the month,” Hoyer added. “But we never gave any message to anyone that was like we were going to trade him at all costs. It was, we were obviously going to discuss him with teams, and if it made sense for the Cubs we’ll do it.”
Happ, a first-time All-Star this season, has said, like Contreras, that he wants to stay long-term with the Cubs. He has one more year of arbitration eligibility before becoming a free agent, so the Cubs have more time to consider the extension question after the season or look to trade him the or at next year’s deadline.
It didn’t make weeks of increasingly heated rumors about where he might land by the deadline much easier for Happ to take than Contreras, especially when no deal happened.
“With Ian as well, I do understand the emotional takes when you’re waiting on a phone call and reading rumors,” Hoyer said. “I know that would be difficult for me if I was in that situation. I do really understand the human toll that takes on guys. I definitely want to sit down with those guys.
“Part of it is we value those guys really highly,” Hoyer added. “They’re really good players. They just played in the All-Star game. That’s certainly part of it.
“But it can’t have been an easy week. And, frankly, the way this has trended, the national media coverage of the trade deadline basically started at the all-star break this year. It feels like that’s longer than I remember it. And that makes it even harder for those guys.
“So I think those guys have been on eggshells for a while now.”