Deal with first baseman runs through 2019, with two club options
CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo was able to give his mother a very nice present for Mother's Day.
Rizzo agreed to a seven-year, $41 million contract extension with the Cubs that includes two club options worth $14.5 million each. The deal includes escalators that could increase the total value of the contract to $73 million.
"This day has come so fast," Rizzo said. "Looking back on it, when I was a young kid dreaming of this day, it's a surreal moment."
Rizzo's family, including his mother, Laurie, was in Washington for the Cubs' weekend series against the Nationals when he told them about the new deal.
It's been quite a ride for Rizzo, who a year ago was playing for Triple-A Iowa, and was getting treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma five years ago.
Talks began with 10 days remaining in Spring Training, but the two sides were unable to reach a deal at that time. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said negotiations resumed about 10 days ago, and the details were completed last Wednesday. The deal does not include a no-trade clause. It will override Rizzo's existing 2013 deal, so it is essentially a six-year extension.
"It's nice to have that security and nice to be able to go out and play," Rizzo said. "I knew for a while this was getting done, and the last couple days have been so nice to play baseball. I feel like I'm playing Little League again. It's all about winning now, there's nothing else in the way. It's all about the team and nothing else."
As a Super Two player, Rizzo, 23, would have been eligible for arbitration after the 2014 season. The deal will effectively buy out one year prior to qualifying for arbitration plus four arbitration years and two years of free-agency eligibility.
Rizzo's new contract includes a $2 million signing bonus and $750,000 salary for 2013. He will be paid $1.25 million in 2014, $5 million in 2015 and 2016, $7 million in 2017 and 2018, and $11 million in 2019. The two separate $14.5 million club options run through 2021.
Hoyer said because he, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and head of player development and scouting Jason McLeod knew Rizzo so well, it was an easy decision. Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod were together in 2007 in Boston when they selected Rizzo in the First-Year Player Draft, and Hoyer and McLeod then went to San Diego and acquired the first baseman there. In January 2012, Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod were together on the Cubs, and they dealt for Rizzo again.
Rizzo, who does not have a full season yet with the Cubs, has played a total of 172 games in the Majors.
"It's pretty unusual [to get a long-term deal like this], but I think it's pretty unusual when you have a situation like this -- when you have a president, the [general manager], the guy who runs the scouting and player development who have known Anthony for a long time," Hoyer said. "We felt we were in a good position to make that kind of investment. We get some cost certainty out of the deal, we get between one and three years of longer control of Anthony, and he gets a lot of security in the deal. I think it's a great matchup for both sides. It is unusual that it's early [in his career], but our knowledge of Anthony and our belief in him as a person makes that possible."
Rizzo is the second young player on the Cubs' roster to receive a long-term extension. Last August, the Cubs gave shortstop Starlin Castro a seven-year, $60 million contract. Rizzo and Castro are key pieces that Epstein and Hoyer hope to build around. The extension ensures the Cubs can keep Rizzo under control through 2021.
"I think winning is contagious, and once a team learns how to win together as a group, it can build on top of itself," Hoyer said. "With Starlin and now with Anthony, our goal is to build that kind of core group and have that group together for a long time. With Anthony, we think he's a big part of that and that he can hit in the middle of the lineup for us for a long time."
Rizzo, whom Epstein acquired from the Padres in January 2012 in a four-player trade, was batting .280 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs entering Monday. He was tied for second in the National League and fifth in the Major Leagues with 19 extra-base hits. In his last 16 games, Rizzo was batting .452 with eight doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs. He opened the season hitting .173 in his first 21 games.
Promoted from the big leagues last June 26, Rizzo was inserted into the No. 3 spot in the Cubs' lineup, and he showed he was worthy, batting .330 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in July to win NL Player of the Month honors.
"I've had this game taken away from me, and I don't like to play that sorrow story," Rizzo said of his battle with cancer. "Not being able to play the game has made me appreciate it a lot more.
"To have this type of contract, which my agents and I think is fair, and my family thinks is a fair deal and a good deal -- to take maybe a little bit of a discount now, it's security for now," he said. "And it's a huge weight off my shoulder, my family's shoulder, my kid's shoulder, my grandkid's shoulders. It's a good feeling."