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Jed Hoyer explains the Cubs’ thought process at the trade deadline with Willson Contreras, Ian Happ

2 years agoAndy Martinez

ST. LOUIS — Jed Hoyer set his bar and stuck to it.

That’s why, at 5:01 p.m. on Tuesday, both Willson Contreras and Ian Happ were still members of the Chicago Cubs and why, just an hour and 45 minutes later, the pair were on the field at Busch Stadium with “CHICAGO” in blue emblazoned on their grey jerseys.

“We were willing to listen if someone gave us a piece that could really help our future,” Hoyer said after the trade deadline. “We never crossed that threshold.”

That level was high, given the importance that Contreras means to the franchise. He’s a player who’s been in the organization for 14 years and has grown from a fiery rookie to an impassioned leader.

“I’ve always had a really high opinion of how hard he plays,” Hoyer said. “There’s no one that cares more than he does. His energy is infectious. He’s a really talented catcher. I don’t think our opinion has changed at all.”

There’s value in everything he brings. On the field, he’s an All-Star and arguably one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. Off it, he’s a mentor to young players, a valuable presence that helps establish a winning culture inside the clubhouse.

Happ has been around plenty of winning, too, and was a key component on the Cubs’ last playoff team in 2020 plus the 2017-18 postseason runs.

“I think it’s always valuable to have guys that have been around winning,” Hoyer said. “Rossy and I talk about that all the time — having experienced what winning looks like, day in, day out, the grind that it takes, the focus that it takes, I do think that that’s really important. And whether it’s in the free agent market or internally, I do think valuing guys that have been a part of that is a big deal.”

That’s what Contreras brings to the Cubs for the last 2 months of the season. There’s plenty of young pitchers that will be throwing more and making appearances in high leverage situations at the big-league level after the team traded away a quartet of relievers. Having Contreras to bridge that gap will be crucial.

At the end of the day, this was a possibility to Hoyer. He never went into the trade deadline with a hardened stance that Contreras was going to be dealt, no matter the circumstances.

“I think that maybe there was just an assumption that we would definitely move him,” Hoyer said. “There was never anything said by us. We’re not gonna talk about contract negotiations, but obviously, I’ve been in communication with his agents throughout the month, and we never gave any message to anyone that was like, you know, we’re gonna trade him at all costs.

“We were obviously going to discuss him with teams and if it makes sense for the Cubs, we’ll do it. So, I think he knew that but obviously I think there was the assumption based on last year that we would do it.”

That created an unnecessary burden over the last two weeks for both Contreras and Happ. Last week, the pair played an emotional series against the Pirates, knowing there was a possibility it was their last time at Wrigley Field as a Cub.

That didn’t turn out to be the case, but it wasn’t something that was lost on Hoyer.

“I do feel for [Contreras] on the emotional toll,” Hoyer said. “Saying goodbye to people, thinking you played your last game with the Cubs and then obviously, not being traded, I think there’s a yo-yo impact to that but again, it’s not based on any mis-messaging from our side. We never said that.

“We never found a deal that came close to the right value.”

That’s ultimately why Happ and Contreras will finish out the 2022 season as Cubs.

“There was a number of playoff contending teams that stood pat, which is really unusual,” Hoyer said. “And so I do think that that might have something to do with it. Just like the lack of aggression by some of those teams, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a surprise or anything like that. I would just say like it definitely did not line up or feel the same level of aggression that we had last year.”

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