Cubs Think Rizzo is the Real Deal…Kinda

Photo by Reid Compton/USA TODAY Sports/www.rantsports.com

Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

A few weeks back I wrote a piece about Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo.  I wondered if Rizzo could bring an end to the team’s long search for a reliable first baseman.  You can find that article here http://oursportsreport.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/could-anthony-rizzo-be-the-real-deal/

Well, today I learned that the Cubs have signed Rizzo to a seven-year contract extension worth $41 million.  For you kids scoring at home, that averages out to roughly $6 million per year.  Not bad for a guy who hasn’t spent a full season with the team yet.

Rizzo is currently batting .280, with 9 dingers and 28 RBI’s.  That’s a fairly decent start considering his past struggles at the major league level.  Whether or not he becomes an Albert Pujols caliber first baseman remains to be seen, but he finally seems to be putting it all together.

Now, here’s why I say that the Cubs still seem to be on the fence about Rizzo.  He’s not being paid Pujols or Fielder type money, nor is he getting the type of longevity on his contract that those two got.  I am not at all making the case that Rizzo is that caliber of a player…take a deep breath and relax.  What I am saying is that a team will pay big money when they are 100% sold on a guy, good idea or not (see Alfonso Soriano contract of the previous regime).  Rizzo’s contract also includes escalators, which are basically performance incentives.  If he plays out of his mind, he gets more money.  Most importantly (and quite possibly the smartest part) is the fact that this contract lacks the ever popular no-trade clause.  But of course, nothing says we aren’t all-in on you like leaving out the no-trade clause.  Lastly, the Cubs have team options built into the contract at $14.5 million per year, meaning that Rizzo still needs to prove that he’s really worth the big bucks.

Overall, I like what the Cubs have done here.  They’ve managed to avoid the super deals that players the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder seem to be demanding.  They’ve also managed to stay flexible with the lack of a no-trade clause.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think that Rizzo is going to end up being the bane of the Cub fan existence the way Soriano has.  It’s not that Soriano is a bad player, he’s just not a player that is worth $18 million per year.

This contract also shows the direction that the Cubs seem to be headed in.  They are developing quality players from within (see Starlin Castro) or trading for quality players out of other teams’ farm systems.  Then they are signing these players to reasonable contracts instead of team crippling ones like ex-GM Jim Hendry did.

Bottom line, the Cubs have solid players locked in at first base and shortstop for the next 6 years, so now it’s time for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to fit the rest of the puzzle pieces together and finish building a winner.

My grade for this signing: A+