Cubs’ veterans understand there is plenty of potential yet more to prove in 2021

Cubs

Chicago Cubs pitchers warm up during the team’s spring training baseball workout in Mesa, Ariz., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

MESA, ARIZ. – Talking about this kind of thing just hasn’t been much of an issue for him since he joined the club back in 2012.

In May of 2013, Anthony Rizzo signed a seven-year, $41 million contract to ensure his future with the franchise the rest of the decade. Since then, the first baseman has been the rock for a club that’s made the playoffs five times in the last six years while winning a championship in 2016.

But eventually, the talk of a contact year was going to come up, and that’s where Rizzo is as he begins spring training this week in Mesa with the Cubs. He’ll play on a $16.5 million option in 2021, but his future after that remains unclear.

Naturally, Rizzo would like to get a deal done during training camp, but sometimes those things don’t come to pass when a player wants it. Hence the first baseman wasn’t stressed when talking about the possibility of playing the season with free agency looming.

“This is a business, and playing for a while now, you understand that. You deal with so much outside noise at all time from the second you step on a big league field and this is no different,” said Rizzo. “At the end of it, you’re playing baseball, and I’m playing baseball with a lot of really good friends here. Their not just teammates, they’ll be close friends that will be close friends forever.”

You might here the same from Kris Bryant or Javier Baez or other members of the Cubs who are entering the final year of their contract. Who stays and who goes depends on a number of factors, from performance to financial, but one thing is for sure for all who take the field for the team in 2021.

There is plenty to prove after the team has had bad finishes to the last three seasons and failed to win a postseason game since 2017. Rizzo certainly understands if people don’t have faith that a similar team can produce different results over the next six months.

“I don’t think anyone should believe in it. We haven’t done what we’re capable of doing the last few years,” said Rizzo. “Last year it hit hard just because how connected our team was and that whole COVID year; the connection of that team was so strong, so it just hurts to end your season like that in two games.

“It’s just up to us to go out there and prove it, everyday and every year.”

Contract and the future of his along with others on his team will depend on if they can prove it from now until October. Whether team’s championship window is already closed or is left a crack open will depend on the 2021 season, with the team on the edge of staying competitive or going into a complete restructuring.

Second year manager David Ross is hoping these players can have what amounts to be a “reset” after an unusual 2020 season and regain their form of past year.

“Going back to experience and being a player and being around really great players like we have here, every year is different and unique in the sense of performance,” said Ross. “That’s why it’s is so hard to find those great players that are consistent throughout their career.

“For sure, I think especially after such a unique season that was last year, I think a lot of these guys are looking forward to hitting that reset button and going out and proving who they are to everybody.”

Rizzo knows they’ll have to do that, or else even bigger changes may be on the horizon sooner than later.

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