Nearly a decade ago, the Cubs made a splash in acquiring Anthony Rizzo.
Nine years ago, the Chicago Cubs were just getting started on their top-to-bottom organizational overhaul under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. One of their first – and most impactful – moves? Bringing in first baseman and former Red Sox prospect Anthony Rizzo.
At the time, Rizzo was just 22 and coming off a brutal first taste of the big leagues with the San Diego Padres. Hoyer and Epstein, who just two years prior had been on opposite sides of the deal that brought Rizzo to San Diego and sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, knew this was a guy they wanted. He checked every box – on and off the field – and had already won a battle against cancer, to boot.
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So they sent right-hander Andrew Cashner to the Padres in exchange for Rizzo in a four-player deal. Cashner, once heralded as a potential frontline starter, was solid from there on out. But he paled in comparison to the Cubs first baseman.
In nine years with Chicago, Rizzo carries a .274/.374/.492 line – good for a 133 wRC+ – to go along with 228 home runs and 744 RBI. He’s a three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and one-time Platinum Glove recipient and in 2016, he not only earned a World Series ring, but tossed in a Silver Slugger for good measure.
As for Cashner? He bounced around the league, pitching for San Diego, Miami, Texas, Baltimore and Boston – racking up just over 1,100 innings with a 4.09 ERA. He didn’t play during the shortened 2020 campaign. Needless to say, that’s not what you want from a former first-round pick.
Earlier this winter, the Cubs picked up their team option to keep Rizzo on the North Side in 2021. That marks his final year of team control under his current deal and he’ll hit the decade mark when he steps onto the field in the spring. Will this be a swan song for the fan favorite? I sure hope not.
It’s so much more than what he does on the field (which is considerable). Rizzo is the heart and soul of this Cubs team. Even after 10 years, that hasn’t changed one bit. He does it all. Facing two strikes, he chokes up on the bat. The Reds’ Joey Votto is the only one I can think of who does that. And, like Votto, he gets on his teammates, but in a good way.
And his charitable work? It’s beyond words, really. This Christmas, he connected the Rizzo Foundation with his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, to get the five families affected by cancer the help they need.
When you talk about a face of a franchise, this is what it looks like. All of these factors will be taken into account as the team looks toward the future and a potential contract extension. While Rizzo has said he wants to be here, at the end of the day, it’s a business for all involved. Really, you can’t even rule out the team trading him next year if he’s playing well. Unbelievable, right?
Anthony Rizzo has become one of the most iconic players in Cubs history. Achieving a decade with one team is no small feat – I only hope this isn’t the end of the road for this relationship.