Extension talks stalled, Rizzo's focus on field

March 29th, 2021

has made it no secret that he wants to keeping suiting up for the Cubs. He has expressed his love for the team's passionate fan base and playing in Wrigley Field, and he made it clear he wants to help bring another World Series trophy to the North Side.

"My desire to stay here has been worn right on my sleeve," Rizzo said via Zoom on Monday morning.

Ahead of the Cubs' final Cactus League game of the spring, Rizzo met with media to discuss the stalled negotiations on a potential contract extension. With Opening Day looming on Thursday, and no deal in place, the first baseman wants to place his full focus now on the 162-game slate ahead.

With the Cubs and Rizzo's camp too far apart in talks, Rizzo said he has instructed his agents to halt negotiations. The first baseman previously sounded flexible about extending talks into the season, but he now wants to draw a harder line after discussing things with his wife and representatives.

"We've given a lot during this process here," Rizzo said. "With the Opening Day deadline, we feel real strong about it. We've had enough time to talk and try to figure it out, but I think once the season starts, for me, personally, it's focus on baseball.

"If my mind isn't 100 percent on baseball and it's elsewhere, it's hard enough to play. So I think once Thursday comes, I think I need to just focus on baseball and that's it."

And that echoes the question on the collective mind of Cubs fans: Is this it?

As things stand, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Rizzo -- critical core figures remaining from the 2016 World Series triumph -- are on pace for free agency next offseason. All-Star catcher Willson Contreras could follow them after the 2022 campaign.

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said this spring would be a good time to sit down with each player and gauge where things stand. As Opening Day sits only a few days away, things on all fronts appear to be at a relative standstill.

Rizzo's always felt like the one case that could get tidied up before the season arrived.

"Obviously, it didn't work out thus far," Rizzo said. "And that's OK. I'm at peace with it. I've done everything I can, and I'll continue to do everything I can to be the best player I can be. I look forward to this group."

While the Cubs could still come to Rizzo with another offer, he said his preference is to wait until next winter.

"I'm firm on just playing baseball," he said. "I've told them I don't even want to hear anything unless it's as close to what we think is right. They know not to talk to me about it anymore at all."

While the specifics of the negotiations are not known, MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman reported that Rizzo's camp was seeking a nine-figure deal. One recent comparison would be first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who signed a five-year, $130 million deal prior to 2019 that covered his age 32-36 seasons.

Rizzo, who will turn 32 later this year, is a four-time Gold Glove Award-winning first baseman who is a safe bet to annually approach 30 homers and 100 RBIs in a full, healthy season. Across the 2014-19 seasons, Rizzo hit .284/.388/.513.

"It's pretty easy to appreciate a guy with Anthony's talent," Cubs manager David Ross said. "It's both sides of the ball. I think consistency is the hardest thing to do in this game, and especially to do it for a long time. Anthony's done a really good job at that."

If this is his final ride with the Cubs, Rizzo's legacy with the franchise is secure.

When Chicago acquired Rizzo in January 2012, it was one of the first building-block moves to this recent run of success. The first baseman broke into the big leagues in '12 during the rebuild, caught the final out of the World Series in '16 and has been a fixture in the lineup (and community) for nearly a decade.

"It's been an amazing ride," Rizzo said. "I don't think it's over, yet."

No, it's not over. Opening Day is arriving and the core group might indeed be embarking on the last hurrah that has been anticipated for a few years now. Strong individual performances could impact contract talks. The team's play in the first few months will undoubtedly influence the front office's approach to the Trade Deadline.

And then, there will be a time to pick up talks again next offseason, when free agency becomes a reality for a group of Chicago's veterans.

Rizzo was asked if it was hard to imagine playing for another team.

"It's not something I really think of right now," Rizzo said. "The only thing that really pops in my mind is, one of my biggest mentors and one of my best friends is Jon Lester, who's had legacies at two different historic franchises.

"When you think of that actual just business side of it, you can't just be naive to think that, just because of what I've done here and what I express, they're just going to hand me a contract, right?

"I've got to go out and earn it and I look forward to just continuing to play and be me."