The Rundown: Rizzo Ceases Extension Negotiations, Ross Believes in Rotation, MLB Striving for 85% Immunization Rate

Cubs camp was running along pretty efficiently until yesterday when the team blew a cylinder head just as it was getting ready to cruise back to Chicago for Thursday’s home opener against the Pirates. Anthony Rizzo, who has frequently professed his desire to remain with the Cubs for the rest of his career, drew a line in the sand and said he’s done negotiating his extension. If a deal isn’t done by Opening Day, he’ll play this season as if it’s his last with Chicago’s North Side baseball team.

Of course, social media lost its collective mind at the thought of losing the team’s most consistent player and easily its most upstanding human being. The origin of that anger is a reported lowball offer by Jed Hoyer, which was reportedly five years and $70 million (subscription to The Athletic required) after starting at $60 million over four years. Rizzo has every right to be unhappy with either attempt.

The last we heard was that Rizzo was looking for a nine-figure deal, so if we factor in the $16.5 million he will be paid this year, he’s probably looking for at least four more years and an additional $83.5 million. That’s pretty close to the deal Salvador Perez signed with the Royals last week, and considering the Cubs have just three players on guaranteed contracts for next season, it seems easily doable. If that’s what it would take to extend Rizzo, the two sides aren’t really that far apart.

Considering the deal that Paul Goldschmidt got from the Cardinals, Hoyer should be ecstatic if that’s all it would take to extend his all-star first baseman, but let’s look at negotiations from his perspective.

  • I know it will upset many if I bring up Rizzo’s injury history, but it does exist and it has to be a consideration, especially when it comes to bad backs.
  • Barring any miracles, there probably won’t be a full season in 2022. If there is no baseball until 2023, Rizzo will turn 34 on August 8 during the first full year of that deal. The value in any extension lies in its first year or two, especially at Rizzo’s age. I’m sure Hoyer has considered that.
  • Though Hoyer has a budget dictated by Tom Ricketts, it’s safe to assume that this is all on the operational executive, who has to build the best team he can within the constraints of those restrictions. That said, Rizzo is practically irreplaceable on the field, let alone what he means to the community.
  • That budget will be in flux while attendance restrictions are modified and eventually lifted.
  • You also can’t ignore the qualifying offer. Because we don’t know the language of the next CBA, we can’t assume that the players, who don’t like that rule, will agree to include it in the next contract. However, if it will exist, or even if it’s modified or completely eliminated starting at the end of the first season of the new deal, we can assume that may interest Hoyer. This year the QO was $18.9 million, great leverage from an executive standpoint, though it seems potentially barbaric to use against Rizzo. Then again, that’s baseball. Rizzo could turn it down, but the potential loss of a draft pick will hurt the first baseman in any negotiations with other teams.
  • We also know Hoyer loves Rizzo, he’s traded for him twice, and it was at his insistence that the first sacker was included in the deal for Andrew Cashner back in 2012.

At the risk of sounding like I’m carrying water** for the organization, I’d like to add that I honestly believe neither party wants things to play out negatively. In essence, and minus the shock value of the absurdly low $60-70 million lob by Hoyer, I think the two sides are much closer to an agreement than it appears on the surface, unless Rizzo truly wants a deal similar to Goldschmidt’s.

If Hoyer presented a take-it-or-leave-it-offer, and nothing indicates that he did, Cubs fans should continue in their angst. Still, I think an agreement exists somewhere that will bump Rizzo to $20-$21 million annually for four or five years and if so, it could be agreed to as soon as Opening Day. Though Rizzo said he’s done negotiating, if the team presents a fair offer to his agent in the next 30-60 days, I think it’s safe to assume an extension will be forthcoming.

Sliding Into Home

*I personally abhor the phrase “carrying water.” My grandfather used to often paraphrase old Mayor Daley, who would allegedly say “I won’t carry water like a [racial epithet] for the Democratic Party” whenever he met resistance to his agenda. You’ll never see me use it again in this column.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Owners seem commonly committed to shaving 10-20% off in years and/or dollars, at least from my perspective.

Spring Training News & Notes

The league is “strongly urging” its players to get vaccinated and hopes to achieve an 85% immunization rate before normalizing operations.

Kaycee Sogard, wife of the Cubs’ backup second baseman, isn’t thrilled about the league’s incentive plan.

The Dodgers have named Dustin May as their fifth starter and will pitch David Price out of the bullpen, at least to start the season.

I’ve said it all winter: Despite trading for Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals could be the biggest disappointment in the NL Central this season. A slew of pitching injuries and underperforming veterans could be the team’s demise.

Speaking of Arenado, the slugging third baseman closed out Grapefruit League play with his first homer of the spring yesterday.

Rays’ owner Stu Sternberg continues to push for a split of his team’s home games between Tampa Bay and Montreal.

MLB has turned to social app Tik-Tok to hopefully introduce the sport to a younger generation of fans. Reminds me of a famous Steve Buscemi meme.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Hundreds of thousands of fans will collectively return to regular-season games across the United States this week for the first time in 18 months in a radically different landscape amid the COVID-19 crisis that nearly caused last season to be canceled.

The Red Sox have done quite a bit of remodeling to allow its fans back in Fenway Park, and fans have been lining up to get their immunizations at the immortal stadium. Fans entering Fenway will be required to submit to a wellness check, though body temperatures will not be scanned.

The temperature is expected to be a brisk 37 degrees when Hendricks throws the first pitch at Wrigley Field on Thursday, and weather has been game-changing factor at times on Opening Day in Chicago.

Extra Innings

Needs more seasoning. Got it.

They Said It

  • “I think I’ve just expressed how much I love it here, and my desire to stay here and continue building this franchise and winning the next championship here. I feel no different now than I did earlier. Obviously things get in the way of that … but my desire to stay here has been worn on my sleeve. It hasn’t worked out to this point, but that’s OK. We have a full season to play and another offseason a year from now. A lot can happen from now until then.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “I stay out of that. My job is to manage the team, it’s not to negotiate contracts. … I think everybody around here likes [Rizzo]. I know Jed likes Anthony. Negotiations are unique, and that’s between the agent and the organization.” – David Ross
  • “These guys have been fantastic Cubs that did something historic together. They’re always going to be legends. We’ve said all along, pretty clearly, we’d like to keep some of these players. That’d be great. But it’s unrealistic to keep all of the players that were a significant part of 2016. That’s just the reality.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “It’s been an amazing ride, and I don’t think it’s over yet. It’s part of the business…[and] you need to separate it because every business person will tell you there’s no friendships really in business. From a player and human-being standpoint, we’ll take some steps back and see what’s going on. I can’t tell you what the future holds.’’ – Rizzo

Tuesday Walk Up Song

The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen featuring Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. You go, Rizz. Ball’s in your court, Jed.

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