What do the Chicago Cubs do with Willson Contreras after trade deadline?

The Chicago Cubs fanbase said their goodbyes to Willson Contreras at Wrigley Field last week. Tears were shed. Hugs were shared. Contreras knew the odds that he would never set foot in the Cubs clubhouse were increasing by the hour.

Until they weren’t. Until the trade deadline came and went. And Willson Contreras still has at least another two months as a Chicago Cub. What happened?

On Tuesday morning, the Washington Nationals traded superstar Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres along with 1B Josh Bell.

Before the trade, the Soto market was holding up Major League Baseball trades like the Hoover Dam. And then, the dam broke. But only a small but steady stream of trades came through.

The Chicago Cubs did not trade Willson Contreras. What’s next for him now?

After seeing the return for Soto and Bell, the market seemed to cool off quicker than the White Sox offense under Tony La Russa.

If the Padres only had to give up a few of their top prospects with some Major League talent to land a generational superstar AND a .301-hitting everyday first baseman, there was no way that the Cubs would get what they had hoped for in exchange for Willson Contreras (or anyone else for that matter). So, where do we go from here?

Ian Happ is under team control in 2022. They can either trade him during the offseason or hold onto him until the 2023 Trade Deadline and try again next year. Or (and this is unlikely) they could re-sign him at any point.

Willson Contreras is now a Chicago Cub through the end of the year. He will then receive a qualifying offer from the Cubs which he’ll likely turn down in favor of free agency. If that’s the case, the team will then gain a compensatory pick unless they re-sign him during free agency.

So, was the return offered for Contreras really not as good as just one compensatory pick?  Given the return for Soto, it’s possible but not likely.

Heartbreak and sentiment aside, the Chicago Cubs must sign Willson Contreras to a long-term deal after this season. To make Willson and Cubs fans endure a weeks-long goodbye tour only to have him back at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform on Friday would be a slap in the face to everyone involved. Okay, so maybe we can’t put the heartbreak and sentiment aside.

Regardless, it would be a huge L if the Cubs only got a compensatory pick out of Willson Contreras now. So it makes the most sense for the team to sign him to a long-term deal.

It has seemed thus far that the team hasn’t been interested in re-signing him, as indicated by the Yan Gomes contract (signed through next year with a team option for 2024). Pair that with reports that Contreras has not been approached about an extension since 2017 and it seems certain that the team was ready to move on.

But after today, Jed Hoyer & company need to head directly to the negotiating table with a box of Willson’s favorite foods, a very expensive bottle of wine, and a hefty extension offer.

On the plus side, his free agent market will be slightly less than it was yesterday as he’ll now come with a draft pick penalty should he sign with any other team not named the Chicago Cubs. So perhaps the odds to re-sign him just went up today.

Or perhaps the Cubs front office just made a huge mistake and will be even more disliked once Contreras signs with another team.

Either way, Cubs fans get two more months of watching Willson Contreras in the white trousers at beautiful Wrigley Field.