Cubs can’t make the mistake of letting Anthony Rizzo walk away

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Ballplayers come and go. But franchise icons don’t.

Anthony Rizzo is a Chicago Cubs legend. The first big acquisition of the Theo Epstein era nearly a decade ago has built a lasting legacy on the North Side, helping erase the most infamous championship drought in sports while cementing himself as one of the most consistent performers in all of baseball.

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During his Cubs career, Rizzo has never been a below-average offensive player. Since 2012, he’s batted .274/.374/.492 – good for a 131 OPS+. The three-time All-Star has belted 30 or more home runs four separate times and eclipsed the century mark in RBI four times, as well. He’s a four-time Gold Glover and a Platinum Glove winner at first base, to boot.

But sitting here and listing the accolades and awards he’s accumulated over the years doesn’t do him justice – especially when we’re considering the possibility 2021 might be the last season we see Rizzo in a Cubs uniform.

"“I just want to go out and continue to have that big smile and play the game hard,” Rizzo said. “That’s all you can do every day. At the end of this year, I’ll look back with no regrets, because just every day, you just enjoy it. It’s too short. Life’s too short. The game’s too short. All the cliches. But I really do live my life that way.”"

Rizzo knows better than most the fragility of life as a cancer survivor. He inked what has become a very team-friendly deal early in career and he’s earned a big payday. There’s no debating that fact. It is a question, though, as to whether or not Chicago is willing to pay him as he heads deeper into his 30s.

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo isn’t stressed about his contract

President of baseball operation Jed Hoyer plans on sitting down with Rizzo – as well as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant – to talk extensions this spring. Given the ties between Hoyer and Rizzo dating back to the Red Sox organization, it’s really hard for me to envision a scenario where they don’t hammer something out before Opening Day.

"“Like Jed said, Spring Training is the perfect time — one way or the other,” Rizzo said. “This is a business. And playing for a while now, you understand that. You deal with so much outside noise at all times from the second you step onto the big league field, and this is no different."

As great as Rizzo has been on the field, he’s meant just as much – if not more – to the franchise, the city and the fans off it, through his charitable efforts and community outreach. When you talk about a ‘face of a franchise’ – this guy right here is what every organization dreams of.

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I know we’re not going to lock up all three of these guys. Change is a good thing, albeit sometimes difficult. But having that calming presence at the tiller is invaluable and there’s nobody more deserving of being a Cub for the rest of his career than Anthony Rizzo.