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It's legitimate to worry about Anthony Rizzo's back

Should the Cubs move on from him, or extend him?

Anthony Rizzo during Summer Camp
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Some injuries are absolute flukes. Some conditions flare up and go away without any reason for concern. Back injuries that seem to crop up every season are entirely worth being concerned about long-term, like the one Anthony Rizzo is currently undergoing treatment for. The Cubs might be best off with a new first baseman by 2023.

2023 is the year I most often refer to now for major league baseball. 2020 is just shy of a mockery, already. (That doesn't mean we can't enjoy the games, though, if they happen.) At some point, the owners and the union will start to play a financial game of "chicken" regarding the current and future Collective Bargaining Agreements. I figure by 2023, something near recognizable as “baseball as we knew it” will be played. However, making a transaction with anything sooner than 2023 in mind seems a bit wishful in the thinking department. Hopefully, I'm wrong.

Rizzo has been an absolutely huge part of the Theo Epstein years. Rizzo and Kris Bryant have been 1A and 1B since 2015, in whichever order. They both have been "what's wanted" both on and off the field. At some point, if realities matter, that Rizzo might deserve his uniform number retired becomes a secondary concern. What sort of contract should he receive?

Quite a few people like being very polar in their opinions. They'll claim one side, or the other side. The reality is, baseball is a 70-30 sport. Even a really good team might lose one of three in a series to a cellar-dweller. A foolish strategy (think bunting for a sacrifice) might work out as desired between three and seven times out of ten. That so much uncertainty exists between previous numbers and future results serves as a valid reason to gamble on waiver wire additions. Sometimes, they work.

I have gotten rather comfortable saying that ownership across the league has painted themselves as callous toward spending and keeping quality veteran players. It's not a question of "Are they desirable?" so much as "Will they perform to their contracts?". Very few Cubs fans "dislike" Rizzo or Javier Baez. For rather vague and obscure reasons, it seems cool to dislike Bryant. I still haven't figured that one out, yet.

If someone says the Cubs might want to consider the possibility of a new first baseman by 2023 or 2024, it isn't showing a hatred for Rizzo. Chronic back injuries tend to get worse as time progresses, not better. First base is a relatively easy position to fill, and money does seem to matter, despite how unpopular that opinion is.

Rizzo, along with a few key other Cubs, is signed through 2021. As the next few years are uncertain if nothing else, signing him to a three-year extension beyond that seems entirely valid and justified. Anything longer than that seems a bit adventurous, especially with how a few bad contracts have hamstrung the organization, recently. Internally, Alfonso Rivas seems the best replacement option, and he's 16-plus months away from being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. He doesn't figure to be nearly as good as Rizzo, but looks a useful "league minimum fill-in" at some point.

Rizzo would be a sensational case for a post-career extension. After he's done, have him in some sort of a Fergie Jenkins or Billy Williams sort of a role for 15 or more years, as those sorts of contracts can be written so they don't work against the spending penalties. Pay him to fill the role some people want for Sammy Sosa. I'd even be good with him being considered for a very short-term managerial interim stint through said timeframe. However, I don't want him getting a long-term pact that blows out the back of the finances, should the executives or ownership want to stay "under".

At some point, a successful franchise ought to be able to bring in quality young players to replace quality veterans. Executives who can't execute that basic strategy deserve to be replaced. Some players, especially those showing no visible signs of wearing down in the effectiveness, ought to be extended. If a player gets to a point where they no longer seem as reliable as before, the desire to find someone new gets more pressing.

It's entirely valid to have Anthony Rizzo on your personal Cubs Mount Rushmore, and also fear he might be wearing down. The adult human ought to be able to handle two somewhat different thoughts on a professional entertainer. Rizzo's health slide seems fairly well timed with the onset of the designated hitter. At some point, a new person might be the regular at first base. That being somewhat obvious doesn't dismiss anything Rizzo has accomplished. Being able to internally replace quality with quality, though, would hint the Cubs are getting better at developing talent.


Should the Cubs extend Anthony Rizzo past 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Yes, without any conditions
    (120 votes)
  • 34%
    Yes, but... depends on his health
    (155 votes)
  • 32%
    Ask me in a year
    (147 votes)
  • 5%
    Nope, time to move on
    (26 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (3 votes)
451 votes total Vote Now