Even the Cubs' team store seemed to think Willson Contreras would be traded

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(Audacy) Though thrilling for fans, the MLB trade deadline can be a stressful time for players, who are faced with the looming prospect of upending their family and life to join a new team, sometimes for only a few months before inevitably leaving again in free agency. Perhaps all that's weirder than being traded is staying put when you expect to be dealt, then weathering the excruciating awkwardness of returning to work like nothing happened, ignoring the uncomfortable truth that someone in the front office was a phone call or text away from shipping you out for an obscure minor leaguer known only to the most plugged-in scouts.

All-Star catcher Willson Contreras lived this surreal experience earlier this week when, after weeks of speculation, the Cubs lifer went precisely nowhere, the result of his team's failed negotiations with the Padres and Mets, among other suitors. In the aftermath, it appeared as if the Cubs team store even expected Contreras to be traded, as Contreras jerseys weren't in stock at the store Thursday, two days after the trade deadline passed.

Contreras merchandise should be back in stock soon enough, though the three-time All-Star may not be with Chicago much longer with free agency fast approaching. It would stand to reason Contreras will be looking for a new home this offseason, preferring a change of scenery rather than being part of another Cubs rebuild. Contract extension negotiations with the two sides have failed to progress in recent years.

Though fans were no doubt pleased to see Contreras survive the trade deadline, Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago argued the Cubs did him dirty, trapping the veteran on a dead-end team when he could've played out the stretch for a contender. The Cubs likely made it harder for the 30-year-old Contreras to secure a lucrative deal in free agency, where, assuming he’s extended the qualifying offer, he would be tied to draft pick compensation.

With the stress of the trade deadline behind him, Contreras seems refreshed. He homered as part of a two-hit afternoon against the Cardinals in a 4-3 loss in the opener of a doubleheader Thursday.

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