Chicago Cubs stay optimistic as baseball and business collide
To an extent, veteran first baseman Anthony Rizzo and rookie manager David Ross were on the same page Thursday.
Appearing at a community-service event at Horner Park in advance of this weekend's Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, Rizzo and Ross each had optimistic views on the upcoming season.
"We want to win," Rizzo said. "I think winning will take care of every single question that has popped up the last couple years, because we haven't won. It's on us to get the culture back, get the winning mentality back.
"Not making the playoffs last year was not fun. It's not easy to win, but we have the right people to do it."
Said Ross: "It's an exciting time to be Cubs manager because there's a lot of talent. There's no ceiling for this team. I really think this team can win the World Series. That's the way I'm looking at things."
The Cubs have many of the same players who made playoff appearances from 2015-18 and won the World Series in 2016.
But after imploding down the stretch last year and failing to make the postseason while paying a $7.6 million luxury tax for exceeding the payroll threshold, club president Theo Epstein made it clear he has to slash some salaries.
Cole Hamels, Addison Russell and Steve Cishek are among a number of players who have moved on, but there is heavy speculation Kris Bryant and his $18.6 million salary are going to be traded once there's a ruling on the star third baseman's service-time grievance.
A decision is expected before the end of the month.
"Coming into camp, K.B. is on the roster and I expect him to be there," Ross said of spring training, which opens Feb. 11 in Mesa, Arizona. "I think the fans should expect him to be there."
"I've talked to him a couple times," said Rizzo, who is close friends with Bryant. "He knows, too, that it's a rumor until it happens. He was the MVP of the league a couple years ago (2016) and a guy who puts up consistent numbers. We hope he's on our side, that's for sure."
If Bryant is traded to an interested team such as the Braves or Diamondbacks, Rizzo would not be shocked.
"Obviously, as players, we want the payroll to keep going up, keep going up, keep going up," Rizzo said. "I don't know if that's the case right now. We need to focus on what we can control for the next nine months now, even for the next couple months because who knows what's going to happen coming out of spring training. It's on us to keep doing what we do."
The Cubs picked up Rizzo's $14.5 million club option for this season on Nov. 3. The three-time all-star has been open to a contract extension, but he understands the game within the game.
"They have a business to run and we're a part of their business," Rizzo said. "We're players. We know this game doesn't know any names. You're just another piece of the puzzle and if I'm not playing first base, someone else is. That's the way it is.
"Third base, shortstop, second base, it's a business. We've had some talks and obviously nothing came to fruition. I've stated how much I love this place.
"This is like home to me and my wife and my family. But this is a business. This is as cutthroat as ever now. We're talking about trading the MVP of the league a couple years ago (Bryant), who has done a lot for this franchise. It's just a whole different ballgame we're looking at now."