CHICAGO (AP)For the all of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo is sure of one thing.
The star slugger wants to stay put.
Rizzo said Monday he is hopeful about signing a long-term deal with the club before his contract expires at the end of the season.
”This city and everything I love about the city, I kind of wear on my sleeve,” he said. ”And I still love it. I still love our team. I still love what we have going on here.”
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said last week he would discuss long-term contracts with Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez during spring training. All three players have expiring deals and are coming off difficult seasons. They also played huge roles in Chicago’s transformation from long-suffering, lovable losers to drought-busting champions.
”If these guys go out and do what they are accustomed to doing, I think those things do take care of themselves,” manager David Ross said. ”You can’t worry about what’s going to happen next offseason. We’re wasting our time if we’re that far ahead. We need to focus on the daily process to get better.”
Speaking from the Cubs’ spring facility in Mesa, Arizona, Rizzo said preseason camp is the ”perfect time” to discuss a new contract, but he didn’t rule out continuing talks once the season begins if an agreement isn’t reached.
Rizzo, Bryant and Baez helped the Cubs win the World Series in 2016, ending a drought dating to 1908. Chicago finished first in the NL Central last season and made the playoffs for the fifth time in six years but scored just one run in a two-game sweep by Miami in a first-round series.
The Cubs haven’t advanced in the playoffs since 2017, and they started a makeover in the offseason.
Hoyer was promoted from general manager when his longtime friend and boss Theo Epstein stepped down. Ace right-hander Yu Darvish was traded to San Diego. Slugger Kyle Schwarber wasn’t tendered a contract and signed as a free agent with Washington, where he’ll be joined by left-hander Jon Lester.
The Cubs also reunited with one familiar face when they signed 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.
But how much longer Rizzo, Bryant and Baez will be around is not clear.
”We’re all professionals,” Rizzo said. ”I can tell you Javy’s not going to be negotiating his deal and Kris will not be trying to negotiate a deal or me trying to negotiate a deal. The agents do all the talking and all the work – rightfully so, it’s their job. It’s just making sure everyone’s in the right mindset and focused on the right things. You’re not going to get an extension on one swing this year.”
Bryant has the highest salary of the three at $19.5 million, with Rizzo due $16.5 million and Baez $11.65 million.
Odds are, they won’t all be retained. The Cubs could trade one or more of them before they walk at season’s end.
”You just never know,” Rizzo said. ”I really stay away from it. When I find out about a trade, it’s usually via a text message from one of my buddies. We have enough things to worry about when we walk through this door to raise our blood pressure.”
One of those things is how to get the offense to perform the way the Cubs would like. That hasn’t happened the past few seasons.
The Cubs ranked among the worst in the majors last year with a .220 batting average. Rizzo (.222, 11 homers, 24 RBIs), Bryant (.206, four, 11) and Baez (.203, 8, 24) all struggled in the pandemic-shortened season. And if anyone has doubts about the lineup, well, Rizzo understands.
”I think we’ve got to go out and earn it and prove it,” he said. ”I don’t think anyone should believe in it. We haven’t done what we were capable of doing the last few years. … It’s up to us to go out and prove it every day, every year. Just because you do one thing one year doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anything the next year.”
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