Even the Cubs' team store thought Willson Contreras would be traded

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Though thrilling for fans, the trade deadline can be a stressful time for players, 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. The only thing weirder than being traded is staying put, 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 stabbing you in the back, secretly plotting to kick you to the curb for an obscure minor-leaguer known only to the most plugged-in scouts.

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Willson Contreras lived this surreal experience earlier this week when, after weeks of speculation, the Cubs lifer went precisely nowhere, the result of failed negotiations with the Padres and Mets, among other suitors. In fact, the Cubs were so certain Contreras would be dealt by Tuesday’s 4 PM ET deadline, they stopped selling his jersey, removing it from the team’s flagship store at Wrigley Field.

Contreras merch should be back in stock soon enough, though the three-time All-Star may not be a Cub for 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.

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

Refreshed from Wednesday night’s rainout, Contreras homered as part of a two-hit afternoon against the Cardinals, though it wasn’t enough as the Cubs fell 4-3 in the first game of a doubleheader Thursday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

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