Yesterday hurt. And there’s more pain coming today for Chicago Cubs fans, leading up to this afternoon’s MLB trade deadline. If you’re one of those folks out there who managed to get some sleep last night telling yourself Jed Hoyer will go out this winter and re-sign Anthony Rizzo, I have some bad news for you.
According to NBC Sports Chicago, the organization sees Thursday’s trade of the three-time All-Star as a ‘final divorce’ and have ‘no plans’ of pursuing Rizzo in free agency this winter. That’s a bitter pill to swallow given what this guy has meant and continues to mean to the organization, city and Cubs fans across the world.
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So if Chicago has no plans of bringing Rizzo back into the fold moving forward and the same is expected when it comes to Kris Bryant, the team has a pretty glaring need at first base moving forward – although fielding a competitive team is hardly the main concern over the next two months.
There’s also a gaping void in the clubhouse dynamic without Rizzo, who has long been one of the teams biggest leaders behind the scenes. You assume this clubhouse now belongs to Willson Contreras, but given next season marks the final year of team control over the two-time All-Star catcher, we have to wonder if we’ll be writing similar stories about him 12 months from now.
Like I wrote yesterday, I understand not wanting to overpay on aging veterans. But, for me, Rizzo was one of the exceptions to the rule – a player who brings value in so many ways that have nothing to do with what he does on the field. He was the guy who I envisioned being enshrined outside Wrigley Field in a statue someday, with his #44 flapping in the breeze down the line, hanging from a foul pole.
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Now, it seems like there’s a very good chance he’ll never play another game for the Chicago Cubs. The vitriol toward Hoyer and ownership is at a level I can’t recall in my lifetime (with the lone exception of letting Greg Maddux walk in the 1990s, but at that point I was a toddler). Theo Epstein left a year early rather than be saddled with the blame for what he knew was coming this year. Even before Friday’s trade deadline, which will further dismantle the core he assembled with Hoyer, it’s plain to see he made the right call in leaving.
If this a ‘final divorce’ – the cost could prove far steeper for the front office and Tom Ricketts than either envision. There’s more to Anthony Rizzo’s value to this organization than the numbers on the back of his baseball card.