WASHINGTON – The Cubs made a commitment to Anthony Rizzo, a core piece they believe will anchor the lineup, play Gold Glove defense at first base and lead their clubhouse.
In building for the future, the Cubs locked up Rizzo with a seven-year, $41 million deal that contains two club options that could raise the total value to around $70 million, an industry source confirmed late Sunday night.
This is the same playbook team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer used last summer, when they signed All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro to a seven-year, $60 million contract. During the offseason, they also tried to lock up Jeff Samardzija, who wasn’t interested in a discounted long-term deal after only one good year as a big-league starter.
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This comes three weeks after manager Dale Sveum sent a message through the media to his young players, refusing to rule out the idea that Rizzo and Castro could be sent down to Triple-A Iowa.
Rizzo came up from Des Moines in late June last year and the Cubs played their best baseball all season for about a month, right up until the trade deadline. He handled all the hype and put up 15 homers and 48 RBI in 87 games, impressing teammates and staffers with his mature approach.
After a slow start, Rizzo is hitting .280 with nine homers and 28 RBI in 37 games. The new regime at Clark and Addison already understood the player’s makeup.
Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting/player development, selected Rizzo in the sixth round of the 2007 draft for the Boston Red Sox and helped him get through his fight with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Working on opposite sides, Epstein and Hoyer included Rizzo in the Adrian Gonzalez deal with the San Diego Padres in December 2010. Thirteen months later, they teamed up to acquire Rizzo after a failed audition in San Diego (.141 average, one homer, 46 strikeouts in 49 games). They gave up a hard-throwing right-hander in Andrew Cashner, projecting Rizzo would provide far more value at first base than an Albert Pujols or a Prince Fielder megadeal.
As a “Super Two” player, Rizzo would have been eligible for arbitration after the 2014 season. This move – first reported by FOX Sports – gives the organization some cost certainty. Per club policy, his deal doesn’t include a no-trade clause, but it’s clear the front office believes he’ll be there when the Cubs are contending again.
Rizzo and Castro are both 23 years old, and the Cubs are betting their best seasons are on the horizon.