Jed Hoyer said prior to the start of camp that he planned to sit down with all of his core players who’re running out of time on their deals and each of those players has since acknowledged a willingness to stick around for a while. And before you go thinking that’s what everyone says, recall how Jake Arrieta handled the end of his first go-round in Chicago.
It seems to carry at least a little significance, then, that Arrieta came back to the Cubs for less than what he was being offered elsewhere after leaving in part because he thought the cash was greener on the other side. Don’t get me wrong, that’s his right, but you wonder whether his talk about things just feeling different in Chicago will impact his new/old teammates.
Kris Bryant has said for years that he’s willing to work out a deal and he affirmed that recently, even if some of you still don’t take him at his word. Forget about the mythical extension offer he supposedly turned down and believe me when I say he would almost certainly do a new deal with the Cubs for less than he’s likely to get in free agency. It’s just got to have the security of a no-trade clause.
Javy Báez almost had a deal done last year before the pandemic hit and might even be more willing to work something out in light of last year’s offensive performance and what figures to be a stacked shortstop class. Possibly helping matters is that he’s represented by the Wasserman Group, which also represents Kyle Hendricks and seems to be pretty amenable to extensions in general.
Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras have likewise expressed a desire to stick around long-term, though Rizzo did publicly lament the “cutthroat” business side of the game after negotiations went nowhere prior to the 2020 season. He too is coming off of a down season, though, and he’ll be turning 32 in August so he may be questioning his ability to fetch a big deal in an uncertain market. His intrinsic value to the Cubs and vice-versa may grease the wheels a bit.
Hoyer discussed that idea with the media on Sunday in Mesa, not specifically in regard to Rizzo but with Cubs players in general.
“I think it’s a testament to ownership and the front office and the coaching staff, and all the staff, that guys want to be here,” Hoyer said. “They enjoy the environment. Obviously, we’ve got the ballpark and the fan base and the city, but people want to be here, and that’s a great thing.
“That was kind of the theme I felt, reading the parade of articles one day after another, was guys saying that. More as a collective, I think that’s great that they feel [the way they do] about this place. It’d be disappointing after this much time with these players if they felt otherwise.”
Now it’s all just a matter of timing, as these talks typically need to take place during spring training when the games don’t matter and there’s a lot more free time. While the front office is willing to continue discussions well into the regular season, that’s not the way it traditionally works.
“That’s a player preference — not a front-office preference, really,” Hoyer said. “They don’t want it as a distraction, but if their agent wants to continue those conversations, because they have a feel for what the player wants, then we can do that. From the club side, I don’t want to put hard-and-fast deadlines on it, because I don’t see any reason to limit it like that.”
Hoyer also talked about keeping any talks in-house so as to avoid the same kind of situation with Bryant in which people believe talks fell apart. He didn’t actually mention that specifically, mind you, but he did talk about keeping everything from going public out of respect for the players.
Whatever happens or doesn’t, it at least sounds as though everyone is on the same page when it comes to desire. The real question at this point is whether the Cubs are willing to spend the money, though their minimal financial commitments next year and beyond tell us there’s more than enough room to sign extensions and still add from the outside in the future.