It’s like clockwork. The weather in the Windy City early in the year is cold and Anthony Rizzo’s lower back flares up. That happened this year, but the injury has re-surfaced this week, leading to the Chicago Cubs first baseman missing the first game of a big series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
At best, Rizzo could come off the bench as a pinch hitter on Tuesday – but even that isn’t a guarantee. That’s a big loss for a team whose offense has been dreadful this month and lacks any substantive bat-to-ball presences with Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy both still sidelined.
On the year, Rizzo carries a 119 OPS+, a notable rebound from his disappointing 2020 performance. He’s not gotten back to what he’s done for most of his Cubs career, but he’s always been one of those guys who can get hot on a dime and sustain it for weeks on end.
Monday’s loss dropped Chicago four games back of the Brewers in the NL Central and with two more tough matchups queued up, this week is critical for the Cubs. A sweep could drop the team a full six games out in the NL Central, so the importance of getting Rizzo back – especially given the complete lack of a replacement on the 40-man roster – cannot be overstated.
Chicago Cubs: Is this back issue diminishing Anthony Rizzo’s long-term value?
Looking past the week at hand, which is big enough, one has has to assume Jed Hoyer is filing this away in his files ahead of (presumably) talking about a new contract with his All-Star first baseman at season’s end.
We know that early talks fell to pieces after Chicago reportedly low-balled him to the point it seemed likely he’d leave after this year, but if Rizzo’s back issues linger past a week or so, it could very well prove to be a deterrent for interested teams in free agency.
He’s been the epitome of consistency during his career, but given he’s heading into his 30s, you hate to see something like this keep popping up. For his sake – and the team’s – let’s hope a few days of treatment and rest do the trick and Rizzo is back on the field this week.