Willson Contreras and Ian Happ Might Head East

Contreras Happ

As trade rumors swirl, All-Stars Willson Contreras and Ian Happ Might Head East

Back in 2009, the Chicago Cubs signed a young catcher as an international free agent. That catcher was none other than Willson Contreras. After seven years of being a standout prospect in the Cubs farm system, even winning the 2015 Cubs Minor League Player of the Year, Contreras received a call to make his debut for the Cubs on June 19th, 2016. Contreras immediately won the hearts of every single Cubs fan as he demolished the first major league pitch he ever saw over Wrigley’s ivy covered center field wall. He then went on to be a key contributor to the Cubs curse-ending World Series victory later that fall.

Six years later, Contreras has maintained his status as one of the faces of the Chicago Cubs, and after trading away Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez, one could argue that he is currently the sole face of the franchise. The 30-year-old is currently slashing .253/.366/.455 with 13 homers and 35 RBI going into the All Star break. But at the end of July, according to trade rumors, he may very well soon be wearing the colors of another franchise.

Despite early struggles, Ian Happ persevered to finally be selected to the midsummer classic.

Teammate Ian Happ is not immune to trade rumors as well. It seems to be slightly more shocking to see Ian Happ’s name come up in rumors. With Contreras, it makes sense because he is 30 and will be a free agent this offseason. Happ, meanwhile, is only 27 and will not be a free agent until 2024. However, one could argue that the Cubs are putting all of their eggs in the basket of their outfield prospects: Kevin Alcantara, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and top prospect Brennen Davis.

After being drafted ninth overall in 2015, it didn’t take very long for Happ to make his way to the big leagues. And it took even less time for him to make his presence known. Like Contreras, Happ also homered in his very first big league at bat in 2017, gaining some brownie points in the process since it was against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, after finishing eighth in Rookie of the Year voting, Happ struggled in 2018. His batting average went down by 20 points, and despite having almost 50 more at-bats than his rookie season, he had nine less home runs and 24 less RBI. His slugging percentage saw a 100-point decrease as well and his OPS went from .842 to .761.

The only positive of Happ’s sophomore year was that he flashed his OBP potential as it increased from .328 to .353. But despite his early career struggles, Happ has turned into an All Star switch hitting slugger for the Cubs. He is currently hitting .274/.364/.443 with nine home runs and 42 RBI. Cubs fans have come to appreciate the resilience of the young outfielder despite said struggles.

Teams That Make Sense for Willson Contreras and Ian Happ

For Contreras, the most common link has been the New York Mets. The Cubs and Mets are no strangers when it comes to dealing with each other. At last year’s deadline, the Cubs shipped Javier Baez and Trevor Williams to the Mets for Pete Crow-Armstrong, who is now the Cubs third-best prospect and appeared in the 2022 All-Star Futures Game. The Mets are in desperate need of a catcher with a good bat. Mets catcher James McCann has had a forgettable season so far, with a slash line of .183/.250/.293 and a lackluster two home runs and 11 RBI. He is also currently sidelined with a left oblique strain.

Look for the Giants and Guardians to be in the conversation as well, as those are two other teams in the middle of a playoff race while receiving lackluster catcher performances. If the Cubs were able to get Crow-Armstrong for Baez, then it isn’t far-fetched to say that Contreras should fetch another respectable return as well. This could include any of the following; shortstop Ronny Mauricio, outfielder Khalil Lee, or utility prospect Mark Vientos.

Ian Happ

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Regarding Happ, the team that comes up the most is right across town from the Mets, the New York Yankees. Like the Mets, the Cubs are also familiar with making big trades with the Yankees. In 2021, the Cubs traded Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees for Kevin Alcantara, who is right behind Crow-Armstrong as the Cubs’ fourth-best prospect. More famously, in 2016 the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman, who ultimately helped them win the World Series, from the Yankees for Gleyber Torres and Billy McKinney, who were top prospects at the time. Happ may not bring back as good of a return for the Cubs as Contreras, but Happ still is an All-Star and has one additional year of control. Expect the Cubs to ask for at least multiple top-30 prospects from the Yankees.

Regardless of what the return for these two players may be, Cubs fans will be sad to see two more homegrown talents play for another team. Buckle up, Chicago, the days of contending are done. The days of looking forward to the future are here yet again.

For more info on trade rumors involving the Cubs:

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Players mentioned:

Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kevin Alcantara, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brennen Davis, Trevor Williams, James McCann, Ronny Mauricio, Khalil Lee, Mark Vientos, Aroldis Chapman, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney