After months of speculation, the Cubs will pass the trade deadline without moving two of their biggest trade chips. Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the two receivers Willson Contreras and outfielder Ian Happ both will stay in Wrigleyville.
It wasn’t exactly a quiet deadline for the Cubs, as Mychal Givens, David Robertson, Chris Martinand Scott Effros have all been shipped out of town in recent days. But beyond this reliever exodus, it looks like Chicago will hang on to its two most-wanted position players, despite numerous rumors of interest from other teams.
Clubs such as the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Padres had been linked to Happ, who hits .279/.360/.436 in 408 plate appearances and was just named to his first-team All-Star. Although Happ’s production was somewhat inconsistent during his six seasons in MLB, he was a solidly above average hitter overall and also developed into a capable defensive player in center field.
Given that Happ is controlled by arbitration throughout the 2023 season, there may not have been an emergency from Chicago to move the 27-year-old unless another team comes along. presents with a knockout offer. The Cubs continue to give mixed signals as to their short-term and long-term plans to face, but since their most recent moves have tended to retool more, it’s probably safe to guess that Happ will continue to feature in the rumor mills. commercial throughout the off-season. and until next year’s deadline if Chicago is not in contention.
The lack of movement on Contreras, however, is more difficult to understand. The Cubs’ longtime receiver is a post-season free agent, and since the team has aggressively moved several pending free agents (i.e. Anthony Rizo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez) at last year’s deadline, it seemed like a safe bet that Contreras would follow this season. If anything, it was perhaps a little surprising that Contreras wasn’t moved last year as well, except that the idea that the Cubs wanted to keep the catcher and sign him for a contract extension didn’t pan out. not materialized either.
The Mets, Rays, Padres and Astros were all linked to Contreras in recent rumors, though Houston instead got Christian Vazquez of the Red Sox as a contagious upgrade. Acquired Tampa Bay Christian Bethancourt earlier in July, and now he will be the Rays’ only catcher trade of the limit season.
As for other suitors, it could be that the Mets, Padres and ever-popular “mystery teams” just haven’t come up with an offer that satisfies the Cubs. San Diego will continue with the respectable Austin Nola/Jorge Alfaro tandem to the receiver, and the addition of smaller scale depth of Cam Gallagher of the Royals. (Also, it could just be that most of the Padres’ business attention has been focused on larger issues like the Juan Soto blockbuster). New York ended up making only relatively minor upgrades instead of big swings at the deadline, and the team will now have to keep hoping that James McCann can get back on track.
Another factor to consider is the recent absence of an agreement between the league and the players’ union on the implementation of an international player draft. Since that deal was not reached, the old qualifying offer system will remain in place for the duration of the current collective bargaining agreement, and thus the Cubs would get a compensatory draft for Contreras if he rejects a QO and signed elsewhere. That means, essentially, other teams had to offer something the Cubs preferred to that extra pick.
Even with all of that in mind, it’s still surprising that President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer couldn’t find any type of trade game acceptable to Contreras, either in the days leading up to the deadline or even during the offseason. Given the lack of extension talks, it seems unlikely that the two sides will agree on a new deal before Contreras hits the open market, or after he becomes a free agent and has 29 other teams to bid on his services. Contreras has been open about the stress and uncertainty he’s faced with all this nonstop commercial buzz, but while that noise is quieting down, some discomfort may linger in what could be his final two months in a uniform. of the Cubs.
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