Willson Contreras, Ian Happ stay put at deadline as Chicago Cubs fail to find 'motivated' trade partner

ST. LOUIS -- In the end, Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer says he simply couldn't find a match with another team for his All-Star catcher and left fielder.

Willson Contreras and Ian Happ will remain Cubs for the time being, despite weeks of speculation they would be on the move.

"We never crossed that threshold," Hoyer said of making a deal. "This year makes me realize how fortunate we were last year."

In a 24-hour span on deadline day in 2021, Hoyer traded Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo for prospects, perhaps leading Contreras and others to assume it would happen again this time, Hoyer surmised.

Because of that, the veteran back-stop was given multiple standing ovations in his presumed last game at Wrigley Field last week, then said his emotional goodbyes to teammates and fans as the trade deadline approached. It was all for naught.

"This year we just didn't find that [match]," Hoyer said. "It seems like a lot of players [around the league] stayed put. I think that was because in all these markets you had very rational buyers and did not have buyers willing to part with certain prospects."

Contreras described the passing of the deadline as "a lot of weight off my shoulders."

"Today was a long day," he continued. "I was really anxious to see what would happen. When 5 p.m. CT came and David Ross told me I was a Cub, it was amazing."

Likewise, Happ called it a "crazy couple of weeks," to which he added, "Super happy to still be here."

Hoyer was asked if Juan Soto's trade to San Diego impacted his talks. The Padres were interested in several Cubs, including Happ and Contreras, according to league sources.

"That was the most interesting thing to talk about, so it probably held the market up a little bit," Hoyer said. "Everyone was waiting to see what would happen. We all felt like there would be some dominoes that would fall when he was moved."

Happ still has another year of team control, but Contreras will be a free agent at season's end. He's likely to get a qualifying offer from the Cubs, which means a team that signs him -- if he turns the offer down -- will have to give up draft pick compensation for him.

Hoyer said that was all part of the Cubs' calculation: trading for a prospect they didn't necessarily believe in, compared to getting an extra draft pick.

"We never found deals that exceeded the value of the players that we have, and when we did we made some deals," Hoyer explained.

The team did trade relievers David Robertson (Phillies) and Mychal Givens (Mets) on Tuesday after moving Chris Martin (Dodgers) over the weekend. But in the catching and outfield market, they couldn't find takers to their liking.

"In some of the other markets, the buyers weren't motivated," Hoyer said.

Hoyer admitted to some awkwardness considering the send-offs Contreras and Happ experienced over the past week.

"We never gave any message to anyone that we were going to trade anyone at all costs," he said.

Happ explained that amid the back-and-forth momentum surrounding a possible trade, "you have to still go out and do your job and work through all that stuff.

"When you have to sit and wait -- those times are the toughest."