‘Weight off my shoulders’: Willson Contreras, Ian Happ are still Cubs

Their names were involved in plenty of rumors before the deadline, but, in the end, the Cubs didn’t trade Contreras or Happ.

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Cubs catcher Willson Contreras watches his triple against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday in St. Louis.

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras watches his triple against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday in St. Louis.

Scott Kane/AP

ST. LOUIS — The rest of the team was on the field taking batting practice when Cubs manager David Ross walked into the clubhouse to find Willson Contreras and Ian Happ and give them the news: The deadline had passed, and they hadn’t been traded. 

They hugged each other and hugged Ross.

“There was a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Contreras said after the Cubs’ 6-0 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday. “Today was a long day. I was really anxious to see what was going to happen.” 

Said Happ: “I’m happy to still be here. Crazy couple of weeks. Emotional days at Wrigley, emotional days here.”

In the end, the Cubs made five trades leading up to the deadline Tuesday, sending Chris Martin to the Dodgers, Scott Effross to the Yankees, David Robertson to the Phillies, Mychal Givens to the Mets and minor-league infielder Dixon Machado to the Giants. In return, the Cubs bolstered the pitching side of their farm system and added utility player Zach McKinstry. 

Happ, who is under club control through next season, said he’d known there was a chance he’d get traded but didn’t think it was going to happen until momentum, rumors and reports of interested parties started to pick up in the last couple of weeks.

Contreras, in his last year of club control, had the example of the Cubs trading Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez and Kris Bryant at last year’s deadline when they all were in a similar situation.

“So as a human being, you just assume things,” Contreras said. 

The uncertainty of the situation clearly weighed on him.

“I just want this to be over,” he said Sunday. 

In one sense, it is over. Contreras knows where he’ll spend the rest of the season.

In another sense, it isn’t quite. There’s still free agency this winter as long as Contreras doesn’t reach an extension with the Cubs. This spring, he described testing the market as “a dream come true” if that doesn’t happen. 

At the time, MLB and the players’ union hadn’t ruled on the fate of the international draft and qualifying offers, which they tied together in negotiations. Now it’s decided: The international draft isn’t on its way, and the qualifying-offer system is here to stay, at least for now. That’s bad news for Contreras.

A qualifying offer suppresses a player’s market because any team that signs him will lose at least one draft pick. Contreras would have been ineligible for a qualifying offer at the end of the year if he had been traded.

Instead, the Cubs went the opposite way of last year, when president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer presented the deadline purge as a process that had sped up the Cubs’ championship timeline. 

On Tuesday, he said he wouldn’t call this deadline a missed opportunity.

“In these markets when you’re talking to different teams, it really is dependent on who you’re talking to and how motivated they are to win a title, to bring an All-Star-caliber player into their clubhouse,” Hoyer said. “And this year, we just didn’t find that.” 

In the lopsided loss to the Cardinals, Contreras and Happ provided a couple of highlights. 

Contreras legged out a triple and faced the Cubs’ dugout as he celebrated, throwing up his hands and tugging at the back of his jersey. Happ snatched a would-be home run out of the air over the left-field wall. 

“There’s a lot of cool moments here for me at this stadium,” Happ said. “Debut and clinching [the division title] in ’17 and some other stuff. And to have this be a positive and not a negative is pretty great.”

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