Should recent non-tenders worry us regarding Anthony Rizzo and the Cubs?
In a normal year, the Cubs picking up the 2021 option on Anthony Rizzo is a no-brainer, a formality, something not even worth talking about. But after seeing some big-name players, including Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong and Indians closer Brad Hand, get non-tendered since the World Series concluded, there’s a bit more uncertainty in the air.
The 31-year-old first baseman put up an above-average OPS for the ninth consecutive season, even one that was below par by the standards he’s set during his time with the team. He hit .222/.342/.414 in the abbreviated 60-game slate, smacking 11 home runs along the way. Rizzo is no slouch with the leather, either, as he eyes his fourth Gold Glove.
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Knowing all this, like I said, picking up his option is a matter of procedure. At least, it would be were not for the devastating economic impact of COVID-19 this year. MLB lost north of $3.1 billion and the Cubs lost countless dollars with an empty Wrigley Field – potentially as much as $200 million.
So coming back to Rizzo. His 2021 option is worth $16.5 million – with a $2 million buyout. Given his impact on the organization both on and off the field, it feels ludicrous that we’re even talking about this. But we saw signs of penny-pinching from ownership even before the pandemic. The Ricketts family is undoubtedly hemorrhaging money as it’s pertained to the Cubs, and the opportunity to save that kind of coin has to be appealing – at least to a degree.
The Cubs will not exceed the $210 million luxury tax threshold next year – no matter what. And if we’re being honest, payroll will likely come in well under that number. How will the front office make that happen? We’re about to find out – as there are just days left for teams to go one way or the other on all options for next season.
Rizzo is one of the best in the league at his respective position – and the epitome of consistency at the dish. Given the offense has shown a relentless unwillingness to adapt at the dish, his brand of bat-to-ball baseball is refreshing. Pair it with 30-homer potential and it’s easy to see why he’s so valuable.
If Chicago is, indeed, that hell-bent on cutting payroll in dramatic fashion, you’d hope they’d at least trade Rizzo to get something in return. But given the financial landscape for a ton of teams, that’s a roll of the dice the team simply might not be willing to take.