Willson Contreras ran into Chicago Cubs President Jed Hoyer by Friday morning for the first time since Hoyer decided Tuesday to keep his All-Star catcher for the rest of the season.
“I saw him early in the morning when I was doing my workouts,” Contreras said Friday after the Cubs’ 2-1 win against the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. “He just passed by me and said ‘Hi.’
“But at any moment we will talk. We’re here. That’s the most important thing.”
Whether Contreras will remain with the Cubs after the 2022 season is anyone’s guess, but at least he has almost two months to convince Hoyer why he deserves to stay in the organization long term.
Contreras let his bat do all the talking Friday in what everyone called his “homecoming” game. His two-run home run in the eighth inning led the Cubs to a comeback win over the Marlins, snapping a five-game losing streak.
“I’m happy to be with the Cubs for the rest of the year,” Contreras said. “Why not? We have a really good chemistry in the clubhouse, a really good fan base. I know that right now this is not a winning team, but I know at some point we will turn into a winning team.
“They’ve done a good job raising the farm (system). I’ve been hearing a lot about prospects in the organization that are really exciting. Hopefully with time and experience, they’ll be the best.”
Cubs fans showered Contreras with love before his first-inning at-bat and again after his no-doubt-about-it home run off Dylan Floro in the eighth, shortly after Nick Madrigal led off the inning with a single. Madrigal had the Cubs’ first hit of the game — a single leading off the sixth off reliever Huascar Brazobán — heading into the inning.
Justin Steele struck out 10 in 4 ⅔ innings, while reliever Rowan Wick threw 1 ⅓ scoreless frames to earn the win.
But the day belonged to Contreras, who was hugging everyone in sight the last time he left Wrigley after assuming like everyone else that he would be dealt by the Tuesday trade deadline.
“Last time was kind of saying goodbye, it was an emotional moment,” Contreras said. “Today was really a high-energy moment.”
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Hoyer, who wasn’t available Friday — he is scheduled to talk with reporters next week — said via a Zoom call Tuesday that he held on to Contreras and Ian Happ because he didn’t feel the return being offered was worth the price. It’s difficult to imagine the Cubs wouldn’t get enough talent back for a couple of All-Stars, and holding on to Contreras was an especially risky move if they don’t re-sign him. Happ has another year before he becomes a free agent, so it was less of a surprise that he stayed.
Contreras hopes the story is over and he can get some sense of normalcy back for the final weeks of a lost season. He admitted it was exhausting going through the anxiety of the last month, especially over the final days. When he came to St. Louis on Wednesday — the day after the trade deadline — he told his teammates “my eyes are just tired. I just want to be sleeping somewhere.”
But after Friday’s game Contreras said he feels “more relaxed” and can focus on the job at hand. He still wants to win and can build his stats to increase his value on the free-agent market.
Cubs fans have spoken loudly about their preference for Hoyer to retain Contreras, who has repeatedly said he wants to stay, even with the rebuild in the first year. Last week in San Francisco he told reporters: “I care a lot about winning. I know this team is not made to win this year — not even close. But I learned a lot from this team, too, from losing.”
It’s been a long season for the Cubs, and Contreras, more than anyone, has been through the grinder.
But he knows exactly where he wants to be, and he’s still here.
Anytime Hoyer wants to talk, Contreras is ready to listen.