MESA, Ariz. – Of all the free agents that are currently on the Cubs roster, there was a thought that he was the most likely to sign.
He was the first major player of the team’s current core to make his debut in 2012 and has arguably become the face of a proud era of the franchise. He’s a three-time All-Star, aided five trips to the playoffs and, of course, the 2016 World Series championship.
But now he’s in the final of his seven-year deal with the team which he signed in 2013, joining others like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant who are staring down the end of their careers in Chicago. Many thought Rizzo would be the one to get a deal before Thursday’s Opening Day, but it appears that won’t be the case.
“Obviously there have been talks and whatnot, but it doesn’t like really, at this time, anything is going to be finalized,” said Rizzo on Monday, confirming weekend reports that a deal between the sides isn’t imminent. “Look forward to just opening up Thursday and starting this journey with this team.”
Is this a negotiating ploy to attempt to push a deal through before the Wrigley Field opener against the Pirates? Rizzo seemed to indicate that wasn’t the case, insisting he was done with talking even now about the contract, choosing to focus on the 2021 campaign.
“We’ve given a lot during this process here and I think with the Opening Day deadline, we feel really strong about it,” said Rizzo. “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.”
Considering his contribution to the franchise on the field, hitting .274/.374/.492 with 228 homers and .744 RBI, it would seem to be a disappointment for Rizzo as he looks toward an uncertain future. The first baseman tried not to look at it that way, trying to keep his mind on what could be a franchise-altering 2021 season.
“It’s just part of the business. 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 this group.
“I think we have a young, fun, kinda older, but young veteran group that has all the makings to be a very fun team.”
It might be his last, which is something he or the fans believed would happen.