When he spoke to the media today, Cubs President Jed Hoyer indicated that his roster would likely still see some additions before the start of spring training. I’m sure that’s true, and it remains important, but we’re also at that point in the calendar when extensions are usually discussed. And when it comes to the Cubs, there are some really important impending free agents to keep an eye on (Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javy Báez chief among them).
I may have some thoughts on at least one of those deals.
2021 will be Anthony Rizzo's TENTH season with the #Cubs. During that time, he's been a model of consistency on the field and a role model off it.
Put simply: He *MUST* be extended, and he needs to finish his career as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Nothing less is acceptable.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) February 8, 2021
That said, there’s no arguing that all three players are extremely talented, worthy of an extension, and potentially crucial to the Cubs chances in 2022 and beyond.
So can we expect any movement on this trio or anyone else? Around this time last year, the Cubs were talking about an extension with Javy Báez (the pandemic shut down those negotiations) and had just recently determined that they were too far off with Rizzo to proceed more seriously on talks. But maybe something has changed. And maybe we’ll find out sooner than later.
Gordon Wittenmyer has some quotes from today’s presser (NBC Sports Chicago):
“I’d love to have those discussions this spring. I think that’s a good time for it,” Hoyer said during a Zoom conference with media Monday.
“I think spring has always been a great time to have those discussions,” said Hoyer, who also did not rule out trades of any of the core players during the spring. “Some guys don’t like it to bleed into the last couple weeks, and some guys are willing to have those discussions [beyond that]. But we’ll certainly have those discussions in spring.”
Setting aside the “also did not rule out trades of any of the core players during the spring,” because my brain can’t handle it at the moment, it does seem like the Cubs are well set up to rekindle extension discussions over the next month or so. After all, they just cut a BUNCH of long-term salary by swapping out three high-priced years of Yu Darvish for one moderately priced year of Zach Davies, and we’re in the year before so many players are entering free agency. Oh, also, they didn’t ink any other long-term deals this offseason. The future books are very, very clean.
As for the non-pending free agents, just one player, Ian Happ, is headed for arbitration, so the opportunity for a surprise extension for a controlled player is probably a bit lower. I’m still rooting for a long-term deal for Happ to avoid arbitration permanently, simply because I think he’s a great player the Cubs should want to keep long-term, but I’m not really expecting it at this time given how unsuccessful the Cubs have been at getting those types of deals done.
As for Willson Contreras, I’d sure love it if the Cubs were open to extending him, perhaps especially now that his pitch-framing has taken a 180. But given his two remaining years of control, those persistent trade rumors, and the budding presence of Miguel Amaya, I’d guess that’s not high on their priority list. It probably should be. But I don’t think it is.
If I had to guess, I’d say the chances of extending Kris Bryant are probably pretty low, as well. Not only have the Cubs been openly willing to trade him for the better part of two years (and the door will apparently stay open well into the spring), the two sides clearly do not see eye-to-eye on appropriate value. Bryant’s down 2020 season, his injuries, the tightening budget, and the service time grievance (remember that?) are all additional hurdles to overcome.
So that brings us back to Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez … and a little bit of optimism.
My gut tells me the Cubs know what they have in Báez and all the non-baseball reasons they should keep him around (though there are plenty of baseball reasons, too, obviously!). And given the talks last spring, I’m cautiously expecting some earnest attempts at a long-term deal to reveal themselves over the next couple weeks. Throw in the loaded shortstop class in free agency looming, and maybe Báez has a strong incentive to get a deal done, too.
I already spoke on Rizzo and don’t have much else to add. Rarely, does a team *need* to keep someone no matter the cost, but Rizzo feels like that guy. He’s heading into his tenth season in Chicago and has been everything you can ask for in a player and ambassador (and then some). There were reports that the Cubs were going to wait until mid-season to address his next deal, but I think that’d be incredibly short-sighted and unnecessarily risky. Anthony Rizzo is this generation’s Captain and he needs to be in Chicago until he retires.
Fortunately (hopefully?), it seems like we may learn a bit more soon.