‘It’s the place I’ve always wanted to be’: How Ian Happ, Cubs found common ground on extension
Sometimes, all you need is a little push to make good things happen.
For Ian Happ and the Cubs, that push to finish a contract extension came from Happ’s desire — almost need — to be in Chicago.
“It’s the place I’ve always wanted to be,” Happ said, just a few hours after his 3-year contract extension had been made official. “Been pretty clear about that for a long time. I think just the fact that I have wanted to wear this uniform for as long as I possibly can made it pretty easy.”
Just a couple weeks ago, that push felt like it required the strength of an ox.
Happ sat at the home dugout one day before Opening Day, spoke to a large contingent of media and shared a bleak outlook for a stay for him at Wrigley Field beyond 2023.
“Just not something I really want to get into,” Happ said at the time. “Went through the process and that’s about it. There’s nothing really to report. No real comment on it.”
But his craving to don the Cubs’ pinstripes allowed he and the Cubs to push past any artificial deadlines — the beginning of Spring Training, the middle of it or Opening Day — and finish a deal.
“I don’t want to say we ran out of time as we got close to Opening Day but we kinda did with the way we broke camp,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “We weren’t close enough to bridge the gap at that moment. To his credit, we never stopped talking. We had a dialogue going and over the last week or so, it kinda picked up steam to the point where it felt like this will get done.”
That’s the funny thing about a push — it can create an unstoppable force. That drive stemmed from Happ’s desire to be the Cubs’ left fielder of the future.
“His commitment to staying here is really impressive,” Hoyer said. “He made that really clear to me a number of times during the negotiation — how much he wanted to stay here. He showed that. He took a shorter deal than he may have been able to command on the free agent market. He really wanted to be a Cub and I admire him for that. He did really well on this deal, but I also think he was willing to make a life choice — this is the place I’m comfortable both personally and I love being here. He wanted to stay here. I really commend him for it.
“We don’t get this across the finish line if he doesn’t want to be a Cub that badly. I think that means a lot.”
For Happ the extension meant security — financial, yes, but also knowing that for the next 4 seasons, he’ll call 1060 W. Addison his home and he can put to bed the uncertainty of contract situations or trade talks.
“It means a lot to get the deal done,” Happ said. “It means a lot to be here. It means a lot to continue to be here. Been able to be on a lot of good teams here. Been able to see a lot of really awesome things and see a lot of games at Wrigley Field and so to continue to do that means a lot.”
It means security for the Cubs, too.
On the field, a middle-of-the-order bat and left field are locked in. But most importantly for the Cubs as they try to climb back to the levels they were at when Happ first debuted in 2015, they secured a model for their organization.
“A really good person, really good teammate,” Hoyer said. “I’ve seen such a change in him in the last year, year and a half in terms of stepping into a leadership role. He became one of the more veteran guys here and really embraced that. His preparation to play is outstanding both from a physical preparation everyday routine but also, he does everything you can think of to try to win a game.”
Wednesday afternoon, the news was made official just moments before the Cubs took on the Mariners. As Happ raced towards his spot in left field, a graphic was shown on the left field video board with the announcement of the extension.
He acknowledged the fans in the bleachers, tipping his cap towards them and doing so with the knowledge that it’ll be something he gets to do for the next four years — and it’s all thanks to a push.
“I think as the season goes on, too, and [you] get some of those big crowds and you have that ability [of] thinking about going out there and doing that and acknowledging the left field bleachers over and over for the next 3 plus, 4 years is really exciting,” Happ said.