CHICAGO -- There was never any suspense surrounding the question of whether the Cubs would pick up Anthony Rizzo's team option for 2020. The decision is more of a formality than anything else, given the first baseman's status as a team leader and franchise icon.
The Cubs took the official step of exercising Rizzo's $16.5 million team option on Monday, marking what will likely hold as the least surprising move of this important offseason for the North Siders. This past season, Rizzo fought through a handful of injuries and still managed one of the best campaigns of his impressive career in Chicago.
"He's just so important to everything we do on the field and off the field," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in September. "There's a personal connection with every player, every staff member, everyone in the organization because of what he's done here and his personality, who he is."
The move comes one day after the Cubs also picked up the $10.5 million team option for left-hander José Quintana on Saturday and declined the $7 million team option for lefty Derek Holland.
This option for Rizzo is one of two included as part of the seven-year contract that he signed in 2013 with the Cubs, who will have another $16.5 million team option on the first baseman in '21. The options for '20-21 were originally valued at $14.5 million apiece but rose to $16.5 million due to Rizzo finishing in the top five in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting in 2015-16.
Last season, the 30-year-old Rizzo set single-season career highs with a .293 average and .405 on-base percentage, and his .924 OPS was his highest since '16 (.928). Rizzo finished with 27 home runs, 29 doubles, 89 runs scored and 94 RBIs in 146 games. A back issue and a late-season right ankle injury contributed to Rizzo playing his fewest games since '14.
In eight seasons with the Cubs, Rizzo has hit .277 with an .872 OPS to go along with 217 homers, 254 doubles, 581 walks and 720 RBIs in 1,158 games. He is a three-time All-Star and was awarded his third Gold Glove on Sunday night. From 2015-19, Rizzo has averaged 29 homers and 103 RBIs with an .899 OPS.
On Sept. 15, Rizzo sustained a right ankle sprain that threatened to end his season. But with the Cubs' playoff hopes dwindling, the first baseman made a stunning return to the field on Sept. 19, launching a home run against the Cardinals. Rizzo hit .400 with a 1.029 OPS over his final six games, but it was not enough to save Chicago's season.
"That was huge," Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said after Rizzo's return. "That's the guy he is. One of our leaders. So to have him back out there, it lifted everybody up for sure."
Rizzo developed into a key member of the Cubs, who became World Series champions in '16 but have been unable to recapture that same glory in the past three seasons. In '19, Chicago missed the postseason and the team decided it was time to bring in a new leadership voice, parting ways with manager Joe Maddon and hiring David Ross.
Epstein has hinted that there could be "real change" coming to the Major League roster with no untouchables in trade talks. Rizzo and the rest of the core group were bracing for that reality at the end of the season.
"I think that Theo and [GM Jed Hoyer] and everyone in the front office, they know it's a challenge," Rizzo said during the final regular-season series in St. Louis. "It's a challenge for all of us. They're going to sit and figure it out and come up with solutions for what they think is best as an organization and as a franchise. I don't think we're far off by any means. We just didn't get it done this year.
"It just sucks. No matter how you break down it down, with Spring Training and our goals -- World Series goals -- and you don't go to the playoffs. We've been in the playoffs the last four years. Last year stung, but this year, we didn't even get a chance for it to sting in October. … I believe in this group. We just didn't get it done. We just might need to go back to the drawing board a little bit."