On July 26, Willson Contreras grew emotional when faced with the possibility of his last home game with the Chicago Cubs.
At the time, it seemed a trade was inevitable, but when Tuesday’s frenzied trade deadline passed, Contreras was not headed to a new team.
Instead of introducing himself to a new fanbase, Contreras will return to Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon when the Cubs host the Miami Marlins in the opener of a three-game series.
Contreras, a pending free agent, was viewed as the top catcher on the trade market. During his final at-bat in the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 26, he saluted the fans while scouts from other teams were in the stands. Cubs All-Star outfielder Ian Happ was also expected to be dealt, and he and Contreras shared an embrace in the dugout.
Instead of selling them off as the Cubs did with Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant last season, the front office did not get an offer it deemed acceptable for the two.
“It’s going to be fun,” Contreras said of staying in Chicago. “It’s going to be good.”
At the time of his ovation, the Cubs were completing their sixth consecutive win. Now they are returning from a 1-6 road trip through San Francisco and St. Louis and attempting to break a four-game skid after getting swept in a doubleheader against the Cardinals on Thursday.
“I know that I said goodbye because I assumed that I was getting traded, but it didn’t happen,” Contreras said. “I’m glad that I get to go back to Wrigley Field where everything started and get to play in front of the best fanbase in baseball.”
Miami was two games under .500 following a 3-2 road win over the Pirates on July 14 but has lost 12 of 17 since. During that stretch, the Marlins have been blanked five times and scored three runs or fewer 13 times. They also have lost lineup mainstays Jazz Chisholm Jr., Brian Anderson and Jorge Soler to the injured list.
“We haven’t really got clicking, but we were hanging in there, hung in through the road trip, but lost a lot of guys and then came back in the Mets series and just kind of got manhandled,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said earlier this week.
“That’s kind of an eye-opener when you play a really good team and you just get manhandled, and you see where you’re stacking up at that moment with the team that you have and guys that you’re missing,” Mattingly said.
The Marlins are coming off one of their best games of late, when they recorded a 3-0 win over the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday to snap a five-game skid. Ace Sandy Alcantara fired a six-hitter, Luke Williams had three hits and stole a career-high three bases, and Jesus Aguilar homered.
The Marlins did not name a starting pitcher for Friday, but it could be right-hander Edward Cabrera (2-1, 3.45 ERA), who was recalled from a rehab assignment at Triple-A Jacksonville during Thursday’s off day.
Cabrera would be making his fourth major league start of the season and first since June 12 at Houston, three days before he landed on the injured list due to right elbow tendinitis.
Cabrera has never opposed the Cubs.
Chicago will counter with left-hander Justin Steele (4-7, 3.86 ERA), who is coming off one of his shortest starts of the season. He allowed four runs, all unearned, in 3 2/3 innings on July 28 at San Francisco. Steele had lasted at least five innings in nine straight starts prior to facing the Giants.
Steele will be facing the Marlins for the first time.
–Field Level Media