Earlier this winter, it was reported that the Cubs and Anthony Rizzo had “tabled” talk of a contract extension, after Rizzo’s $16.5 million contract option for 2020 had been exercised. (The Cubs have an identical team option for Rizzo for 2021).
That’s why these comments made to Jesse Rogers on ESPN 1000 Thursday are quite revealing:
Anthony Rizzo said he’ll keep his reaction to not getting an extension this off season ‘in-house.’ Called the business end of baseball as ‘cut throat’ as ever. An example: “We’re talking about trading the MVP of the league a couple years ago.”— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) January 16, 2020
The first thing that’s of interest here is that Rizzo doesn’t make public comments of this nature very often. So just the fact that these remarks were made at all is somewhat... remarkable.
So let’s read between the lines a bit, shall we?
It sounds like Rizzo is somewhat unhappy that he wasn’t extended. We all know how “cut throat” the business of baseball, but it’s rare to see a player, especially one of Rizzo’s stature, say so publicly. He also called attention to all the Kris Bryant trade rumors.
Beyond his personal situation, then, it sounds like Rizzo is unhappy with the current state of the Cubs, though he’d likely never specifically say that. In that, he’s with the rest of us, I think. None of us is very happy that the Cubs have made no significant moves this offseason, and while I think many players likely feel the same way, they haven’t gone public, even in this oblique way.
I don’t have to tell you that Anthony Rizzo is the face of the Cubs franchise. He’ll be entering his ninth year with the team in 2020 and both his play on the field and his off-field charitable work have made him as popular as any Cubs player of the last half-century. He’s the “Mr. Cub” of this era, and yes, that high praise is intentional, comparing him to Ernie Banks, the only man who’s ever been called by that nickname.
Most of the time, in a player’s declining years, it’s a reasonable thing to think that he might leave a longtime team via free agency. In Rizzo’s case, what he brings to the Cubs brand is likely worth keeping until he’s in his late 30s. As a first baseman with good on-base skills and power, he is likely to decline somewhat less than, say, a speed guy on the bases or a defensive-minded outfielder. True, we have seen Rizzo’s baserunning speed (which was never great to begin with) slow down, but the rest of his numbers have remained remarkably steady.
I wrote here as long as two years ago that I felt Rizzo should have been made a “Cub for life.” I still feel that way. Perhaps the Ricketts will open their wallets later this year, or next, and do that.
In the meantime, we have a winter of Rizzo’s discontent, and that’s not good for anyone.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The quote in the headline of this article is a direct quote from Rizzo in Jesse Rogers’ tweet.