Hard to imagine Cubs removing Rizzo from first base
Is it time for the Cubs to pull out the hand sanitizer and remove all traces of Anthony Rizzo from first base?
Well, that's a question Theo Epstein and Cubs management will be asking about a lot of guys. Rizzo is one of the team's four future free agents. Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber can all hit the open market after next season.
Technically, Rizzo could be cut loose right now, since the Cubs have a team option for 2021 worth $16.5 million. Declining the option doesn't figure to be a realistic option. If Rizzo leaves, it would likely be via trade.
When the season ended with a playoff loss to Miami, Rizzo was asked what the future might hold.
"I'm not sure," he said. "Who knows where the game is going to go, where this country's going to go, where life's going to go? Baseball next year seems so far away right now. The winter meetings are going to come and go, the GM meetings, the World Series, all these significant dates. I know for a fact Mr. (Tom) Ricketts wants to put a winning team on this field."
If anyone qualifies as the face of the Cubs, it's Rizzo, who has been with the team since 2012. Like the rest of the future free agents, he's coming off his worst season with the team.
Rizzo, 30, batted a career-low .222 and also reached a new low with his .414 slugging percentage, as long as you disregard his rookie stint in San Diego.
Even projected to 162 games, Rizzo would have produced 65 RBI this year, a long way from his four-straight 100-RBI seasons from 2015-18.
Then again, Rizzo had a bad season after six very good ones. And he was frequently praised this summer as someone who stepped up his game when it comes to leadership in the clubhouse. More than one teammate praised his ability to keep things loose under rough circumstances.
"He knows how to have a good time and knows how to play the game with passion and focus, which is a unique skill set and I know how hard it is," manager David Ross said. "Even when he doesn't have a good at-bat, or gave away an at-bat, he's mad for a second and turns back around and starts cheering for the guy behind him."
Rizzo made a nice pandemic joke during opening weekend of the season when he pulled a bottle of hand sanitizer from his back pocket and offered some to Brewers baserunner Orlando Arcia.
He was also ringleader of the gold chain club. He wore a couple of chains, borrowed from coach Mike Napoli, himself then brokered a loan for Bryant during the final weekend series against the White Sox.
"It's been awesome to see someone who was already a really good leader grow even more in that area," Ross said.
All things considered, it's hard to imagine Rizzo going anywhere. He might be the most likely of the Free Agent Four to sign an extension, but it's tough to predict exactly how Epstein and crew will try to remold the Cubs.