Contreras, Happ glad to stay with Cubs, but how long will it last?

When the night was over and Willson Contreras was still standing in front of the same locker, he admitted no one ever told him he was likely to be traded from the Cubs.

But who could blame him for being worried after watching Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javy Baez wipe away tears on their way out the door a year ago?

"It happened before, so as a human being, you just assume things and that's what I did," Contreras told reporters in St. Louis. "I'm just looking forward to get back to Wrigley Field and keep playing for the Cubs."

Ian Happ good-naturedly blamed reporters for his trade-deadline anxiety. To be fair, that is a baseball tradition: Teams having a bad season look to sell.

"I didn't think I was going to be traded and definitely two weeks before didn't think it was going to happen," Happ said with a smile. "And then momentum started to pick up, you guys started to write a bunch of stories and before you know it, you think you're gone. That was your fault, all of you."

Happ was able to joke about the sad, sappy, farewell hug he had with Contreras in the Wrigley Field at the last home game. Looking back now, it was a little much.

"That Willy hug at Wrigley has been really out there, really overblown," Happ said. "Keep that out of the media for a little bit."

As it turned out, Happ and Contreras shared a victory hug of sorts in the visiting clubhouse when manager David Ross told them Tuesday at 5:01 p.m. they were both staying with the Cubs.

The Cubs ended up trading four relief pitchers - David Robertson, Scott Effross, Mychal Givens and Chris Martin - while president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said enticing offers never materialized for Happ or Contreras.

Why not? Well, maybe it was a couple of reasons that seemed logical long before the deadline. Teams are thought to be reluctant to trade for catchers at midseason since there's so much work that needs to be done to learn a new pitching staff. Houston picked up catcher Christian Vazquez from Boston, but the asking price for Contreras was probably much higher.

Then there's a limited number of teams in the top echelon this season and the distraction of the bidding war for Washington's Juan Soto (won by San Diego). A Mets reporter wrote that the team was a little gun-shy after giving the Cubs a top 75 prospect in Pete Crow-Armstrong for a two-month rental of Baez.

"I feel like there was a lot of weight off my shoulders," Contreras said. "Today was a long day. I was really anxious to see what was going to happen. Once I got to the clubhouse, I was still a Cub. When 5 o'clock came, once David Ross told me I was still a Cub, it was just beyond amazing.

"I've done nothing but go out there and play the best I could to help this team to win. Now that this is over, I just need to keep my focus on baseball and that's it."

According to Happ, Monday was the toughest segment of the journey, since the Cubs didn't have a game.

"You just sit and wait, and today the same thing," he said. "Those are the times that are the toughest when you're not preoccupied with work.

"I wanted to be here, wanted to be with these guys, wanted to be in this clubhouse, still wearing this jersey. The city, the fan base, the team means a lot to me."

So what's next? Hoyer didn't want to comment on the possibility of re-signing Contreras, who will be a free agent after the season, but logic suggests the Cubs rebuild could use a veteran leader who lived through the 2016 World Series run.

"Rossy and I talk about that a lot," Hoyer said. "Having experienced what winning looks like day in and day out, the grind that it takes, the focus that it takes - I do think that's really important."

Happ has another year of team control, so he's likely to go through arbitration and return next season. But the Cubs have several outfielders rising through the farm system. If Seiya Suzuki is locked into right field and Crow-Armstrong is the future in center, they might try to clear a spot for Brennen Davis, Alexander Canario or Owen Caissie down the road.

For his part, Contreras said he'll have no problem working with Hoyer in the future, even after the emotional roller coaster he experienced all season.

"I think we're good," Contreras said. "I think we have a really good relationship. He did what he was supposed to do, listen to offers. Like I said before, this is business. It's not about feelings, it's about business. I don't have any hard feelings."


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Ian Happ said he couldn't be happier to stay with the Cubs following this week's trading deadline when he was certain he was headed out of town. Associated Press
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