Longtime Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Monday that he is instructing his agents not to negotiate on a new contract with the team during the season so he can keep his focus on baseball.
Rizzo’s contract expires after the 2021 season. Failure to agree to a new deal would make the 31-year-old a free agent after this season.
And if Rizzo’s stance is firm and negotiations end with Thursday’s opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, his 10th season with the franchise could be his last.
“It doesn’t look like at this time anything is going to be finalized,” Rizzo told reporters. “I think with the Opening Day deadline, we feel really strong about it. We’ve had enough time to talk and try to figure it out, but 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.
“Once Thursday comes, I focus on baseball, and that’s it. I told my agents, I told them really not to talk about it anymore, even from this point on, really. Like I said earlier, it’s good to have clarity one way or the other, and now I can get ready for the season.”
Rizzo was acquired from the San Diego Padres prior to the 2012 season and signed a seven-year, $41 million extension with Chicago in May of 2013.
The contract was a bargain for the club over time, as Rizzo became a three-time All-Star and topped 30 homers in four straight seasons while baseball salaries were significantly rising. The Cubs held two team options after the seventh season and have exercised both at $16.5 million.
The stalemate as Opening Day arrives could point this to being Rizzo’s final season in the Windy City. Teammates Javier Baez and Kris Bryant also face uncertain contract situations.
“It’s just part of the business,” Rizzo said. “Like I’ve stated many times before, I love Chicago, I love what Wrigley Field and being a Chicago Cub is all about, but obviously it didn’t work out thus far, and that’s OK. Like I said, I’m at peace with it. I’ve done everything I can and continue to do everything I can to do the best player I can be and look forward to (playing with) this group.”
Rizzo was a key member when the Cubs won the 2016 World Series — he batted .360 with a homer in the seven-game series against the Cleveland Indians — and is highly popular in Chicago. He has belted 228 of his 229 career homers with the Cubs, his first coming in a 49-game stint with the San Diego Padres in 2011.
Rizzo has a .271 career average and 753 RBIs in 1,265 games.
–Field Level Media