This particular horse is about to collapse and I can’t swing my stick because I hurt my shoulder trying to imitate Devin Williams‘ Airbender changeup, so this will be brief. Anthony Rizzo was very clear at the end of spring training that he would not carry on extension discussions with the Cubs during the regular season, but some felt he was just being coy and would still authorize his agent to continue those talks.
While it’s possible the lines of communication have not been completely severed behind the scenes, Rizzo told ESPN 1000’s Kap & J. Hood Tuesday that he is just focused on playing baseball. What’s more, he said he feels he gave the Cubs every opportunity over the past year — it’s actually been a little longer — and now it’s just a matter of pushing on the with season sans distractions.
“I don’t see any reason for us to listen,” he said.
Rizzo reiterates to Kap & Hood that when he talks to his agent right now, he wants it to be all normal stuff – team, baseball, scheduling, promo stuff, etc. Just focused on playing baseball. Feels he gave Cubs every fair opportunity over past year. Doesn't see a reason to engage.
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 6, 2021
To be fair, this could very well be more public politicking on Rizzo’s part because he’s very literally talking about what he said he didn’t want to talk about. He was also asked about it, so it’s not as though he requested a platform specifically to gain a little leverage.
Jed Hoyer told the media last week that negotiations were in a more positive place than reports of the Cubs’ paltry offers seemed to indicate, though timing doesn’t lend much credence to those claims. Hoyer said he was “very confident” that a deal would eventually get done, adding the very obvious note that he knew more about the talks than what had been released publicly.
However, any truth to the reports that the Cubs had started at $60 million for four years and then pushed to $70 million over five would still leave them woefully short of Rizzo’s rumored nine-figure asking price. What’s more, the two sides were far apart in terms of length when they cut off talks in December of 2019, so the perception here is that they’ve essentially made zero progress.
Again, maybe it’s all just bluster. To whatever extent that is the case, though, it’s quite obvious the two sides aren’t very close and Rizzo has maintained all along that Opening Day was his deadline. How the Cubs weren’t more aggressive knowing that is beyond me.
I’ll note in closing that speculating on the potential for Rizzo’s value on the open market really doesn’t play in this situation. Elite first basemen aren’t exactly going to be replete in free agency, the Cubs don’t have an adequate replacement waiting in the wings, and Rizzo’s intrinsic value to the organization and community adds a great deal to the team’s PR and bottom-line efforts.
As much as an eventual deal still feels like it has to happen, this whole situation is very disappointing.