Cubs' Rizzo vows to have no regrets this season
On the first day of full-squad Cubs spring training, Anthony Rizzo talked about the dual competitions he's facing this season.
While the Cubs will be trying to stay atop the NL Central, it could also be said he, Kris Bryant and Javy Baez will be angling for contract extensions to avoid having to leave town. Whether the Cubs will try to keep all three players is anyone's guess and probably depends on their performance this summer.
"You're not going to get an extension on one swing this year," Rizzo said Monday on a Zoom call with reporters. "It's a full 162 games hopefully and I think our guys feel comfortable with that body of work, just being able to go out and continue to be who they are.
"The agents do all the talking and all the work (regarding the contracts). It's just making sure everyone's in the right mindset and focused on the right things."
Several times, Rizzo used the phrase "outside noise," which this year will represent the talk about his future. Rizzo, Bryant and Baez are in the final year of their contracts, while catcher Willson Contreras is up in 2022.
While the Cubs did make the playoffs last year, the three players on expiring contracts never got going offensively. Needless to say, nothing positive is going to happen if they can't turn things around this summer. And Rizzo repeated a familiar theme -- he doesn't want to leave.
"Obviously this city and everything I love about the city, I wear on my sleeve," he said. "And I still love it, I still love our team, I still love what we have going on here.
"It's exciting times and it's exciting to be in this position. I'm grateful and I'm healthy and I'm just excited to play baseball and have a full spring training and get ready for 162."
Rizzo is heading into his 10th season with the Cubs, making him the team's longest-tenured player by far. Disregarding the year he spent with the Padres in 2011, Rizzo hit career-lows last season in batting average (.222) and slugging percentage (.414).
Last year, teams started spring training, then had to pause for the pandemic and finally played a 60-game season that began in late July. So just being back to a normal schedule is one reason to believe the Cubs' hitters can better.
"Let's go out and have fun," Rizzo said. "Once you get in this clubhouse and you're with the boys, there's nothing better. There's no better feeling and all of that kind of outside noise just goes away.
"We control the narrative in here and we control how we go about our business every day. Guys were locked in today and it's an exciting feeling when you see that."
Plenty of familiar faces still reside in the Cubs' clubhouse, but some of Rizzo's good friends departed. Pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Kyle Schwarber are now in Washington, while pitcher Yu Darvish was traded to San Diego.
Rizzo pointed out that some of the newcomers, like former Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, along with pitchers Trevor Williams (Pirates) and Zach Davies (five years with Brewers) are former rivals.
"A lot of that history from being on the other side of the team that you hate, right? And vice versa," Rizzo said. "It's on all of us older guys jobs to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible as soon as possible, because we need everyone."
Asked why anyone should believe that the Cubs can make a run at the World Series, five years after they got there the first time, Rizzo said they shouldn't.
"I think we've got to go out and earn and prove it," he said. "I don't think anyone should believe in it. We haven't done what we're capable of doing the last few years and last year hit hard because of how connected our team was."
Last season ended abruptly with a 2-0 sweep against Miami in the first round of the playoffs, when the Cubs scored just 1 run in two games.
Rizzo has continued to work on his physique. After losing weight before last season, he said he added strength this year.
"This offseason was really good, just getting strong. This is the best I've felt in a long time," he said. "I just want to go out and continue to have that big smile and play the game hard.
"At the end of this year, I'll look back with no regrets. Every day, just enjoy it. Life's too short, the game's too short, all the cliches, but I really deal with my life that way."