It should come as no surprise that multiple outlets have recently reported no real traction in the Cubs’ efforts to extend three core players entering their final year of club control, though the latest updates are perhaps more of a bummer than expected. After Anthony Rizzo had expressed optimism that a deal would be done and Jon Heyman reported that an offer had been made, it now appears the gap in question is larger than first indicated.
During his weekly appearance on 670 The Score’s Mully and Haugh, Heyman said Rizzo is seeking a deal in the nine-figure range but the Cubs have not seen fit to stretch that far. Speculation is that the first baseman may be using Paul Goldschmidt‘s five-year, $130 million deal as something of a template, which would mean the two sides are at least $30 million apart. Perhaps more importantly, that means a gap of more than $6 million AAV.
David Kaplan and others have indicated that the difference in ask and offer is actually much more than that, though specifics aren’t known at this point. While it’s typical to have a disparity early in negotiations, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Rizzo’s camp having much higher expectations than what the Cubs are willing to discuss.
Back in the winter of 2019, Jed Hoyer made a rare departure from his standard vow of silence in these matters to say the sides were “far apart in terms of length.” And that was a little over a year ago, when Rizzo was younger and not coming off of a less-than-stellar season. That said, he’s been the face of the franchise since offering to fight the entire Reds dugout in 2014 and it’s clear this is a relationship that’s beneficial to both sides. For a Cubs team in dire need of a little goodwill, re-signing the captain makes too much sense.
Of course, it might also take too many of the cents and dollars Tom Ricketts holds so dear as his back groans under the massive load of debt accrued to turn Wrigleyville into his own version of baseball’s Disney World. The Cubs may believe Rizzo needs them as much as they need him, maybe more, but the South Florida native might be willing to play chicken with the threat of heading home to close out his career.
As much as you might not want to hear that, I’m told it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
The real kicker here is that Rizzo has said he doesn’t want talks to leak into the regular season, effectively giving the Cubs three days to make something work. Although maybe the first baseman would be willing to soften his deadline a bit if he feels talks are close enough that it’s just a matter of buttoning up some incidentals. Rizzo’s current deal wasn’t finalized until May of 2013, so there’s certainly hope and a lot can happen in just a day or two.
Cubs are still working on possible Anthony Rizzo extension and would love to get it done while there’s no likelihood for a new deal anytime soon for Baez or Bryant, as I just said on @mullyhaugh. All 3 are eligible for free agency at year’s end. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 29, 2021
A lot will have to happen when it comes to Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, neither of whom appears to be close to a deal of any sort. Reports from Heyman, Kaplan, and Jesse Rogers all say there’s little to no movement with the guys on the left side of the infield, though Báez has expressed a willingness to let negotiations play out as long as necessary. Bryant has never set a deadline and has maintained all along that he is likewise willing to let the process play out.
Kaplan wrote that “club sources are confident that a deal will eventually get done” with Rizzo, which might mean the Cubs are looking at his extension as the first in a series of dominoes. It makes sense to prioritize him based on his status, plus it allows Hoyer to understand where he’s at in regard to the budget. Not that money should be much of an object when the Cubs have so few players committed at a laughably low overall cost for next year and beyond.
Brett Taylor has a more thorough breakdown of how the Cubs and Rizzo can come to an agreement despite their reported gap, so check that out for more context. Rather than repeat any of that rationale, all of which I agree with, I’ll simply say it makes too much sense for the Cubs to get this done even at a higher cost than they may have first anticipated. Same goes for KB and Javy.
With only $46 million in actual payroll obligations and less than $60 million in luxury tax payroll for 2022, the Cubs could pay each player $30 million AAV and still be $22 million under this year’s mark. For the sake of reference, their $158 million payroll is about $41 million less than last year, which means even big extensions would leave more than enough surplus for additional free agents.
The start of the regular season is certainly reason for celebration, but it’d be a helluva lot better if the Cubs could get some new deals worked out.