CHICAGO — Despite a halt in negotiations, Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer says he’s “very confident” he’ll be able to sign longtime first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a contract extension before he becomes a free agent in November.
Rizzo, 31, indicated on Monday he would rather not negotiate during the season.
“Ultimately, the timing doesn’t matter,” Hoyer said Wednesday. “What matters is we’re able to reach an agreement. I respect his desire to put a deadline on it. That’s his decision and one that I respect completely but our door is open. We have no reason not to talk in-season.
“I’ll honor that but I’m optimistic we’ll reach an agreement.”
The sides are far apart on a new deal, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Rizzo is at the end of a 7-year, $41 million contract, signed in 2013, which included two team option years, in 2020 and 2021.
“With [the] Opening Day deadline, we feel really strong about it,” Rizzo said of ending talks. “We’ve had enough time to talk and figure it out. I’ve told my agents not to talk to me about it anymore.”
But Rizzo left open the door, if anything dramatic changes with the team’s offer. In fact, his last deal, back in 2013, was signed in May. Players are often unwilling to discuss contract terms during the season as it can be a distraction. Hoyer was asked what gives him confidence a deal can be made.
“I know more about the negotiations than what is out there,” Hoyer said. “I’ve expressed to him how we see a path to a deal.”
Rizzo is hoping for a contract closer to what Paul Goldschmidt received with the St. Louis Cardinals. At the same age Rizzo is now, Goldschmidt signed for $130 million over five years. The Cubs are offering significantly less.
Rizzo is a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, helping the Cubs to a World Series title in 2016. He and teammates Javier Baez and Kris Bryant will all be free agents at the end of the 2021 season. Baez and Bryant also aren’t expected to sign back with the team before Opening Day though Hoyer indicated he’s been in touch with both players. Neither has a firm offer in hand, according to league sources.
Rizzo was the focal point of Hoyer’s zoom with reporters after he publicly indicated that a deal wasn’t imminent. The new Cubs president expressed his affection for Rizzo whom he drafted and traded for twice in his career.
“I’ve told Anthony over and over I really want him here for a long time,” Hoyer said. “I’ve also articulated the Cubs position to him very clearly. I think he knows where we stand. The most important thing is he knows we want him back.”