The Cubs entered Spring Training hopeful of securing long-term contracts with multiple pending free agents but weren’t able to come to terms with any of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez or Kris Bryant. Fans in Chicago are holding out hope that some of the team’s 2016 core can be retained, but Rizzo gave little reason for optimism today when appearing on the Kap & Hood show on ESPN 1000 radio (Twitter link via Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago).
Rizzo, who already indicated that he was “at peace” with the lack of progress just prior to Opening Day, said that he feels the Cubs have had a “fair” opportunity to get a deal done both in 2021 and in years past, but nothing has come together.
“I don’t see any reason for us to listen,” the first baseman said in response to the Cubs’ recent efforts. Obviously, a sizable increase in years and/or dollars would surely change that thinking, but the team’s reported initial offer — five years and $70MM, per The Athletic — didn’t get the ball rolling.
The 32-year-old Rizzo has already inked one club-friendly deal in the past and delivered considerable surplus value to the Cubs over the life of that contract. For some context, Chicago’s reported offer of $70MM clocked in at just north of half the five-year, $130MM commitment the Cardinals made to Paul Goldschmidt for what will be the same block of his career (his age-32 through age-36 seasons).
Of course, Goldschmidt was coming off a brilliant run with the D-backs at that point and had slashed .290/.389/.533 in his final season prior to being traded to St. Louis; Rizzo’s .222/.342/.414 slash in last year’s shortened season was his least-productive showing since 2013. It’s understandable both that Rizzo would feel the offer to be well below market and that the Cubs may be a bit cautious with their long-term overture after a down year in 2020. As things stand, the disconnect between the two sides seems prohibitive, although president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said last week that he remains “confident” an accord will eventually be reached.
As for Baez, he’s not speaking in such definitive terms. The shortstop told reporters after yesterday’s game that his representatives and the Cubs continue to talk, though his personal focus is on the field at this point (links via Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun-Times and Jordan Bastian of MLB.com).
Baez was, however, happy to discuss Francisco Lindor’s recent extension with the Mets and the manner in which it benefited next year’s class of shortstops. The 28-year-old called the Lindor contract “huge” for other shortstops in the game — next year’s class of free agents in particular. (Baez, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Marcus Semien will all hit the market next winter.) “No one was going to get more than Lindor, and you’ve got to be honest about it,” Baez said. “[But] he opens doors for other people.”
Like Rizzo, Baez is attempting to put an uncharacteristically poor 2020 season in the rearview mirror. The former NL MVP runner-up batted just .203/.238/.360 through 235 plate appearances last year, but he’s not far removed from a .286/.321/.544 showing from 2018-19. Baez connected on his first homer of the season yesterday and has swiped a pair of bases already after stealing just three bags in 2020.
However, Hoyer made clear that a fast start to the year for any of their players won’t necessarily change the calculus in the team’s offers. Said Hoyer (via Dorsey): “These guys have long track records, and how a guy’s hitting in April — positively or negatively — is not going to impact our perception of that player’s value.”