(670 The Score) Addressing the Cubs’ shocking decision to hold on to All-Star catcher Willson Contreras as the trade deadline passed Tuesday evening, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer explained that the club couldn’t obtain the type of elite prospect it was seeking to follow through with a deal.
Contreras’ exit from the Cubs was thought to be a foregone conclusion as he’s in the final year of his contract and the sides haven’t made any progress in long-term extension discussions, which was why the 5 p.m. deadline passing with him still in a Chicago uniform was so surprising to so many across the baseball landscape.
“There were teams that were interested,” Hoyer said in a Zoom call. “Like last year, we were willing to listen if someone gave us a piece that could really help our future. We never crossed that threshold. Willson is a really valuable player. He's been a great Cub for six years now. We never got to that place where we felt comfortable making a deal to end his tenure here.”
The Padres were seriously interested in Contreras and a deal with the Cubs as a fallback option if they didn’t land Nationals star outfielder Juan Soto, but they finalized that blockbuster trade Tuesday morning. The Guardians, Rays and Mets were among the other teams to show interest in Contreras, according to reports.
By keeping the 30-year-old Contreras, the Cubs bought more time to reach a long-term extension with him, but that happening isn’t the prevailing expectation. More likely, the Cubs will extend Contreras a qualifying offer after the season, after which they’d get a compensatory draft pick in return should he leave in free agency. To date, the Cubs haven't shown much of a desire to retain Contreras on a long-term deal.
Contreras was hitting .252 with 14 homers, 38 RBIs and an .818 OPS in 86 games in 2022 entering play Tuesday, when he was in the Cubs’ lineup as they visited the Cardinals. The lack of a trade figures to set up an awkward final two months of the regular season, as he had already shared his goodbyes with the Wrigley Field faithful and soaked in what he thought were farewell moments with teammates.
The Cubs also held onto All-Star outfielder Ian Happ, who was in trade rumors as well. Happ is under team control through 2023.
“We talk about building the next great Cubs team,” Hoyer said. “We're trying to do that on the back of really good prospects. Simply trading players to say you got prospects that you don't believe in or don't find very talented, that doesn't make anything great at all. We never found deals that exceeded the value of the players we had.”