‘I’m happy’: Willson Contreras reacts to staying with Cubs after deadline roller coaster
ST. LOUIS — As the rest of the Cubs roster took the field for warmups and batting practice at Busch Stadium, Willson Contreras and Ian Happ stayed back at their lockers inside the visitors’ clubhouse.
The minutes and seconds ticked ever closer to 5 p.m., the exact time of MLB’s trade deadline and when the duo would learn their fate — would they be traded to another team or stay with the Cubs?
A little after the deadline passed, David Ross walked into the clubhouse and told the pair they weren’t being traded. Happ and Contreras hugged — like they did last week in a viral moment at Wrigley Field. The duo then hugged Vijay Tekchandani, the Cubs’ director of major league travel and clubhouse operations and embraced with teammates as they trickled back in from the field.
“I feel like there was a lot of weight off my shoulders,” a smiling Contreras said after the Cubs loss to the Cardinals. “Today was a long day. I was really anxious to see what was gonna happen.”
When he received the news and reveled with his teammates, his focus immediately shifted.
“I thought nothing but go out there and play the best I could to help this team to win,” Contreras said. “Now that this is over, I’m just going to keep my focus on baseball and that’s it.”
If anything, the last two weeks served as a bit of a learning experience for the Cubs’ veteran backstop. Last year, he saw Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez go through the pressures and uncertainties of the deadline before ultimately being dealt. As the deadline approached, he had a hunch he was in the same boat as they were just a year ago.
“But it just happened just before, so as a human being, you just assume things and that’s what I did,” Contreras admitted. “As a human being I probably made that mistake assuming, but I did it. I’m not gonna take it back. But now I’m really happy to stay here.”
That’s where Contreras’ focus is. He’s not worried about a qualifying offer, an extension or the possibility of becoming a free agent.
“One thing is for sure, tomorrow is another game that I have to stay focused,” Contreras said. “That’s all I can say.”
His priority is in improving personally, helping his team improve and trying to win more games with a Cubs uniform on. That was his focus when he ran onto the field at Busch Stadium as a contingent of Cubs fans cheered in celebration.
“I’m happy. It’s over,” Contreras said. “I’m looking forward to keep playing baseball, to keep helping this team win, finding a way to make it better and control what I can control.”