Willson Contreras had a series of emotional goodbyes leading up to the trade deadline, embracing teammates and basking in repeated standing ovations in what he assumed would be his last games at Wrigley Field and with the Cubs. I’d wager not even the Cubs front office thought there was a strong likelihood that their All-Star catcher would be in the lineup against the Cardinals this past Tuesday, nor did fans with tickets for Friday’s opener against the Marlins believe they’d see Contreras.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be good,” Contreras told media members after Thursday’s loss in St. Louis. “I know we said goodbye, because I assumed that I was getting traded. But it didn’t happen, and I’m glad I get to go back to Wrigley Field, where everything started. And I get to play for the best fan base in baseball.”
Those in attendance got a treat in the 8th inning when Contreras pummeled a changeup from former teammate Dylan Floro into the bleachers to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Forget about the draft lottery or the concern over what will happen at the end of the season, it was a great moment for player and fans alike.
“It was amazing,” Contreras said. “I was looking to do something special there. I had two tough at-bats earlier in the game, but the game isn’t over until it’s over and I was still focused on the game and I was looking to do some damage.”
But, hey, maybe don’t forget about the offseason for too long because that’s really all that matters at this point. The wins and losses don’t matter for anything other than a chance for the top pick in next summer’s draft and the Cubs are strictly focused on the future from an organizational standpoint. That’s why in the inactivity on the trade market was so surprising, though taking a broad view helps to explain why the Cubs did what they didn’t.
Contreras probably isn’t concerned with all the specifics and he said Friday that he hasn’t talked with Jed Hoyer beyond exchanging brief pleasantries, but it’s surely a huge relief for him to stay put for now.
“Having these fans, day in day out, playing in this ballpark here and to be able to stay with the Cubs for at least two more months, I feel like I’m blessed,” Contreras said. “Totally am. Because I’ve been here my whole life, this is the only team that I know, but to be back at Wrigley Field is just special for me.”
He added that his only concern right now is to help the Cubs win, which is as noble as it is futile given the situation. Put a little truth serum and you might get the response that he’s also playing for his next contract, whether that’s in Chicago — which could be a much more likely possibility than it was even a week ago — or elsewhere.