WASHINGTON — For the first time since June 25, 2012, the Cubs started a day Saturday without Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant or Javy Baez on their active roster.
As the Cubs turned the page on their last core with their moves at the trade deadline Thursday and Friday, they are searching for pieces for their next core.
Catcher Willson Contreras was a 24-year-old rookie when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and is one of only three players left from that team, along with right fielder Jason Heyward and right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
‘‘To be honest, it’s been tough,’’ Contreras said Saturday of the Cubs’ moves. ‘‘It was really tough to see our brothers go. But at the end of the day, it’s a business. We have to understand the front office will do whatever they think is best for the team. The moves were made. There’s no looking back, no regrets. But from now on, we have to look to rebuild this team.’’
Contreras, 29, now is a veteran in the prime of his career. With Bryant, Baez and Rizzo gone, he might be the player president Jed Hoyer builds around for this next era of Cubs baseball.
The Cubs would have to lock up Contreras to do that, and after they were unable to work out extensions with their superstar trio, he becomes the priority.
But while the Cubs are entering a rebuild with an unknown timeline, Contreras isn’t looking to abandon ship.
‘‘I would love to stay here,’’ Contreras said. ‘‘I love Chicago. I love my city. I love the team. This is the only team that I’ve played for. If they want to rebuild around me, I’m open to talks.
‘‘I’m open to it. My doors have always been open. Whenever they want to talk, I’ll be open with my agents. I’m just looking forward to playing baseball.’’
Not only did the Cubs lose a lot of talent with their moves, but they also lost their emotional leader in Rizzo. As they enter a new phase, they’ll need to fill the void. As their longest-tenured players, Contreras, Heyward and Hendricks will be asked to take on that role.
‘‘I’m just gonna focus on leading the new guys on the right path the right way,’’ Contreras said. ‘‘I’m gonna try to be their support. I told them [Friday] that it’s not gonna be easy the next few months. But we have to enjoy it, try to have fun and learn from each other.’’
‘‘I’ve had conversations with those guys and talked with those guys,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘It’s been leaders in a lot of ways — J-Hey and Willy, and I will talk to Kyle after his start. I think those guys have been around winning, have identified it and understand what that takes.’’
It remains to be seen what the Cubs’ long-term plans are and whether their timeline lines up with Contreras’. But he doesn’t seem too concerned that he’ll be moved, despite seeing many of his teammates leave town.
‘‘I’m not thinking of getting traded,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m thinking of guiding these guys in the right way. I’m trying to be their leader. I’m going to do my best.’’