Of all the Cubs players approaching the ends of their respective deals, Anthony Rizzo — who hit his 239th homer Friday night to move into a tie with Aramis Ramirez for sixth all-time in team history — seemed like the one most likely to sign a new deal. Thing is, some of the very things that made the extension of his tenure such a sure bet might also signal the end of his time in Chicago.
He had already agreed to a team-friendly deal early in his career, which showed loyalty but might also have prompted a desire to make some of that discount back on the next contract. He was there through the rebuild and saw the Cubs trade away his teammates as they built the ultimate winner, though perhaps the team no longer feels he can anchor that process once more.
And perhaps Rizzo himself is past the point of being willing to wait around on the front office to assemble a winner, a process that could take another 2-3 years or even longer. The first baseman will turn 32 in August and his production doesn’t figure to return to the level of impeccable consistency he displayed from 2014-19, so it’s all a balancing act of emotion and pragmatism. That goes for both sides.
Rizzo has spoken publicly for the last two winters about how the offers the Cubs have made don’t match what he’s seeking, then came reports that more recent overtures were well below his perceived market value. At five years and $70 million, the reported offer was a far cry from the five-year, $130 million extension Paul Goldschmidt signed with the Cardinals as a 32-year-old.
“It’s not something I really think of right now,” Rizzo said back in March. “The only thing that really pops in my mind is, one of my biggest mentors and one of my best friends is Jon Lester, who’s had legacies at two different historic franchises.”
Jed Hoyer has said repeatedly that he’d still like to sit down and talk with his star players to see if deals can be worked out ahead of the deadline, but it doesn’t sound as if those conversations have taken place. Rizzo, on the other hand, seems to have doubled down on his detachment from discussions, opting instead for some interview tropes that would make Crash Davis proud.
“I’ve said my piece on how I feel and how I love the city,” Rizzo told Maddie Lee and other reporters in Arizona. “We’ve gone back and forth, but I just think that focusing on today right now is best for me, and I have no idea what’s going to happen 14 days from now. I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow.
“Just like Joc getting traded yesterday. So, during this period it’s definitely like, ‘Today, what do I have to do?’ Play baseball, just really simplify it and not worry about it.”
Though the next two weeks won’t change the Cubs’ course for this season, how Hoyer approaches the trade market and potential extensions may very well dictate the organization’s path forward. It may just be a matter of who’s captaining the ship.