Why Cubs kept Contreras, Happ at trade deadline


Stunning? Surprising? Shocking?

Pick any of those words and it would be an understandable reaction to Willson Contreras and Ian Happ remaining Cubs after MLB’s trade deadline passed Tuesday.

After weeks of drawn-out rumors, speculation and even emotional goodbyes, the Cubs held on to their two All-Stars and top trade chips — who took the field Tuesday at Busch Stadium for a series opener against the Cardinals.

Missed opportunity?

“No, I wouldn't say that,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said after the deadline Tuesday.

Hoyer didn’t do much in explaining why they didn’t trade Contreras or Happ — not even regarding Juan Soto’s sudden availability impacting the market — other than they didn’t get what they were looking for in offers.

As far as Contreras, it was long expected the Cubs would deal him amid this losing season to recoup value for him before he becomes a free agent this winter. 

The Cubs can give him a qualifying offer this offseason, which would net them a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere.

“Like last year, I think we were willing to listen if someone gave us a piece that could really help our future,” Hoyer said. "We never crossed that threshold. 

“Willson is a really valuable player. He's been a great Cub for six years now. We never got to that place where we felt comfortable making a deal to end his tenure here.”

Happ is under club control through 2023. Even though contenders across the league expressed interest in him, the Cubs always had the option to kick the can down the road on a potential trade, or even contract extension.


Contreras, on the other hand, was in a similar position as Anthony Rizzo, Javy Báez and Kris Bryant were last summer, when the Cubs traded them a few months before they were set to become free agents. 

It takes two to tango, and the Cubs weren’t going to trade Contreras or Happ for the sake of it and if they weren’t offered what they deemed to be fair value. 

“We talk about building the ‘next great Cubs team,’” Hoyer said. “We're trying to do that on the back of really good prospects. 

“Simply trading players to say you got prospects that you don't believe in, or don't find very talented, that doesn't make anything great at all. We never found deals that exceeded the value of the players we had. 

“When we did, I think we made some deals. I think we got really talented arms,” Hoyer added of the Scott Effross, David Robertson and Mychal Givens trades. “But I do feel like in some of the other markets, the buyers were A-motivated.”

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The last few weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster for Contreras and Happ as they faced the prospect of leaving the only organization they've ever known. 

Hoyer sympathized with that and intends to catch up with both players Tuesday night or Wednesday. He was unable to immediately after the deadline due to its proximity to Tuesday's game against the Cardinals.

MORE: Cubs' Hoyer feels for 'emotional toll' on Contreras, Happ

Whether last year's deadline moves influenced the feeling Contreras was certain to be traded, which Hoyer indicated, the Cubs weren't operating with that mentality.

"I've been in communication with his agents throughout the month," Hoyer said. "We never gave any message to anyone that was like, ‘We're going to trade him at all costs.’

"We were obviously going to discuss him with teams, and if it makes sense for the Cubs, we'll do it. I think he knew that, but obviously I think there was the assumption based on last year that we would do it."

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