Happ on Deadline: 'I don't want my Cubs journey to end'

July 26th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Ian Happ admitted on Monday afternoon that he planned on taking a few extra moments over the next two days to soak in the Wrigley Field environment. The outfielder knows these could be his final home games with the Cubs.

"But I don't want my Cubs journey to end," Happ said. "I don't want to stop putting the uniform on and coming here every day."

Standing at his locker ahead of the Cubs' 3-2 win over the Pirates, Happ discussed the reality that this next week will present for players all around the game. The Trade Deadline looms on Aug. 2, and the rebuilding North Siders are very much in sell mode as they try to construct the next true contender.

A year ago, in the wake of a June losing streak that led president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer to declare that "life comes at you fast," the Cubs made a series of blockbuster trades that sent core stars Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to other teams.

This time around, All-Stars Willson Contreras (the longest-tenured player in the organization, having signed out of Venezuela in 2009) and Happ headline Chicago's list of trade chips. Contreras is poised for free agency this coming winter, while Happ has one more year of contractual control.

"We don't know. I don't know. They don't know what's going to happen," Cubs manager David Ross said. "The thing that I've seen, Willson stands out to me this year, in particular, in just how he's come in and really stayed in the moment, stayed committed to his teammates. I think he probably learned a lot from last year, as we all did.

"It hasn't affected him one bit, nor anybody else that I've seen. I think that's kind of the thing that's stood out to me the most in the guys that are rumored to be on that kind of list of guys who might get traded."

As poised as Contreras has been all season long -- through stalled extension talks, an in-season arbitration settlement and mounting trade rumors -- the veteran catcher became emotional after Monday’s game.

“It's been a tough couple days for me,” Contreras said. “I'm trying just to appreciate everything that Wrigley Field is and thinking about all the memories that I have here since 2016, from 2009 to now. It's probably my -- probably not, I don't know -- but probably my last homestand with the fans this year. It's tough. It's really tough.”

“Knowing everything that's happening,” he added later, “I knew it could get to me at some point. I wish this day never came, but it's about business. I understand that. I respect that. I love my team.”

Both Contreras and Happ have acknowledged that witnessing last year's franchise-altering Deadline -- along with how Báez, Bryant and Rizzo navigated the situation -- has helped them this season. Happ has also noted how seeing his old teammates doing well in new cities has helped him brace for the uncertainty ahead.

Both at the All-Star Game and this past weekend in Philadelphia, Happ was able to catch up with former Cubs star Kyle Schwarber. Happ stays in regular contact with Rizzo (now with the Yankees) and saw how Bryant found comfort in Colorado as a free agent, following last year's trade to the Giants.

"You see all those guys, they came out the other side of it," Happ said. "It's just a tough part of it, but you kind of get that realization that you're going to be all right. You'll wake up the next day and you'll be playing still."

Bryant is in Milwaukee this week with the Rockies, who are facing the Brewers. Prior to Monday's game, the former Cub spoke with reporters about Contreras and Happ now staring down a similar scenario this summer.

"I think they’ll do great," Bryant said. "I guess all things really do come to an end eventually. And in the moment, it might sting a little bit. You might feel unwanted. But it’s not really about that. It’s kind of just where the team's at in the current situation.

"I’m just happy I went through that, because I enjoyed my time there and enjoyed my time in San Francisco. And [I'm] really enjoying my time here and I’m meeting a lot of people along the way."

In Monday's victory, Happ continued his career-best season with two more hits, including a double and run scored that got the Cubs' offense going in the second inning. Contreras doubled, was hit by a pitch and helped guide starter Adrian Sampson through seven solid innings.

This past week, the MLB Draft had Happ reminiscing about when he got the call in 2015 as the Cubs' first-round pick. In his first year in the Minors, he watched from afar as Chicago won the World Series. He reached the big leagues the next year and grew into an All-Star this season.

"It goes quick," Happ said.

And he does not want his ride in Chicago to end.

"I grew up here, never think twice about coming here and calling this place home," he said. "I've made so many good relationships in this city and organization, all over the place. It's crazy to think that you could wake up one day and not be here.

"But yeah, it's part of the game. It's part of what we signed up to do, and I think everybody understands that."