The Chicago Cubs‘ offseason and spring training was filled with talk of extensions. While one seemed obvious, it’s anyone’s guess what happens now.
Kris Bryant and 2020 Gold Glove winners Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez all hit free agency at the end of this season. The debate over how big – both in dollars and years – has been dominated conversations for some time now. Let’s look at the numbers.
Anthony Rizzo was right. The Cubs are off by about $40 million and it’s laughable the front office didn’t see that.
Rizzo recently said he and the Cubs were about $40 million apart on the five-year, $70 million ($14 million AAV) offer the Cubs reportedly last made. He’s right and we’ll look at three comparable third basemen, Freddy Freeman, Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, to prove it.
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Age-wise, Rizzo and Freeman are both headed into their age-32 seasons and Goldschmidt into his age-34 season. Meanwhile, Votto is the elder statesman of the four, turning 38 later this year.
From 2013-2020: Rizzo has earned a 33.5 WAR, Freeman: 34.4, Votto: 33.2, Goldschmidt: 40.8. Digging a little deeper, in OPS+ 2013-2020: Rizzo: 132, Freeman: 146, Votto: 144, Goldschmidt: 144. So while WAR is closely grouped, there’s a pretty big gap in OPS+ between Rizzo and the group.
In Win Probability Added (WPA). Since 2011 Rizzo has been worth 28.9 wins, Freeman since 2010: 31.4, Votto since 2007: 49.6, and Goldschmidt since 2011: 35.6. That’s pretty even considering Rizzo’s two partial seasons in 2011-2012.
Defensively it’s a whole other story. DRS, Defensive Runs Saved, is not the gospel on defense but it is still pretty solid. All of these are as first basemen. Rizzo: has been worth 77 runs saved, Freeman: 9, Votto: 57, Goldschmidt: 45.
And now for the crème de la crème of fielding stats: UZR-150. Rizzo 4.2, Freeman 0.9, Votto 2.0, Goldschmidt 1.6.
So, yeah, overall Rizzo is a better player than Freeman, much better defensively than Votto and Goldschmidt, and about equal in hitting with Votto but not quite and Goldschmidt takes the hitting crown of the four.
And that’s why Rizzo isn’t worth Votto’s or Goldschmidt’s $25- $26 million AAV but is worth significantly more than Freeman’s $17 million AAV. Five years at a $21 million AAV comes to $105 million, right at the $40 million that Rizzo said the Cubs were short. Oh, and Baez doesn’t win that Gold Glove without Rizzo vacuuming up all those throws at first.