MARCH 31: President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said the Cubs are still “very confident” they will extend Rizzo, Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. The Cubs are willing to continue discussions into the season, but it’s unclear whether Rizzo will adjust his Opening Day deadline.
MARCH 29, 7:10pm: The Cubs made Rizzo a five-year, $70MM extension offer, Mooney and Ken Rosenthal report. It was a front-loaded proposal with escalators that could have kicked in toward the back end of the deal.
11:35am: Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo told reporters today that extension talks with the team have stalled and a new deal now looks unlikely (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney). The slugger added that after speaking with his family and his representatives, he feels strongly about his previously set Opening Day deadline and has told his agents to stop talking to him about a contract (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers). Rizzo is “at peace” with the lack of a new contract and plans to shift his focus to the 2021 season.
Rizzo is one of three prominent members of the Cubs’ 2016 World Series roster that is currently slated to hit the open market after the season. The others, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, have also been considered potential extension candidates. However, Rizzo was seen as perhaps the likeliest of the trio to sign, given his lengthier tenure with the club, his age and his expected price relative to those younger teammates.
Lining up on a new contract was likely difficult for myriad reasons, though. Rizzo has already signed what proved to be a very beneficial deal for the Cubs once in his career. That contract, a seven-year, $41MM extension inked in May 2013, ultimately wound up spanning nine years and paying Rizzo $75MM after a pair of club options were picked up and after he triggered some escalators based on a trio of fourth-place finishes in MVP voting. Having already taken what now looks to be a discount once, he may not have been as keen on doing so a second time.
It’s also tough to project Rizzo moving forward after he turned in one of his worst career showings at the plate in last year’s 60-game sprint. Rizzo appeared in 58 games for the Cubs and tallied 243 trips to the plate, but he batted just .222/.342/.414 along the way. His strikeout and walk rates remained strong, but that output obviously pales in comparison to the hearty .276/.379/.499 slash he logged from 2013-19. The Cubs likely have at least some trepidation as a result of last year’s downturn — particularly since Rizzo will turn 32 this August.
The lack of a deal this spring doesn’t guarantee that Rizzo will be playing elsewhere after the 2021 season. It remains possible that the Cubs could come back to the table with a late offer that is more in line with the 31-year-old’s asking price to this point, just as it’s possible that he could play out the ’21 season, reach free agency and ultimately still opt to re-sign with the Cubs. Owner Tom Ricketts has been quite averse to long-term spending over the past three offseasons, but at least on the surface, Rizzo would seem like a possible exception due to his nine-year tenure as a Cub, his role as a team leader and the role he played in the franchise’s curse-breaking championship run.