Contract extensions are typically a big part of any team’s spring preparations, though the Cubs have been all talk and very few talks in that regard for the past several seasons. Kyle Hendricks and David Bote are the only players of note to have inked long-term deals and only the former is a foundational piece, leaving the distinct reality that several other players will enter the 2021 regular season without any assurance as to their future employment.
Jed Hoyer said extension talks were a priority heading into camp, then discussed the overall positive vibe from the players’ perspective. The first-year president also said he was going to keep those talks out of the public eye, which may help explain why we’ve heard very little of substance to this point. Kris Bryant said the other day his camp hasn’t been engaged by the Cubs and there’s been nothing from Javy Báez, who indicated last year that a deal was close.
Anthony Rizzo, on the other hand, expressed his displeasure with what he felt was the cutthroat nature of the business in the winter of 2019. Hoyer explained publicly that the sides were “far apart in terms of length” and it appeared as though there was clearly some friction in the relationship, though nothing irreparable. In fact, Rizzo told members of the media that he remains “very optimistic” about getting a deal done this spring.
He also said his camp and the Cubs have had “really good conversations top to bottom,” but there’s still a time limit on those talks. Most players don’t want contractual matters dragging into the regular season and causing distractions. So even though Rizzo has admitted in the past that he’s not directly involved in those talks and that his agent handles everything, he still wants to put his blinders on once camp breaks.
“For me, and everything I put into my teammates,” Rizzo said, “they deserve everything I have this year and I’ll give that to them, and the fans. Once April 1st comes, it’s all about baseball. It’s not about money. It’s not about contract extension, future. It’s about April 1st and winning that game and getting the best out of everyone on the team.”
If the Cubs can find a way to do that, with or without new long-term deals, there’s every reason to believe they’ll be more than competitive in a down NL Central. Whether they can keep pace with the two looming juggernauts out West is another story, but Rizzo is optimistic about what will happen in the future.
“My goal is bringing the next championship here in Chicago,” Rizzo said. “And it’s coming. It’s coming soon. It’s coming to this city.”