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Cubs Mon May 13 2013

Cubs Lock Up Another Franchise Cornerstone in Rizzo

Cubs_200.pngIt's as if Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has been waiting years to give Anthony Rizzo a huge sum of money. Hoyer drafted him in Boston, traded for him in San Diego, and dealt for him a second time after rejoining Theo Epstein in Chicago. Where Hoyer goes, Rizzo goes.

Late last night, Rizzo and the Cubs agreed to a seven-year, $41 million extension that runs through 2019 (the extension will supercede his contract this season), and also includes a pair of team option years valued at $14.5 million each in 2020 and 2021. It buys out his four arbitration years, along with up to three years of free agency if all goes well. Happy Mother's Day, Mrs. Rizzo.

The deal does not include a no-trade clause (which has quickly become the norm for the new front office) and has been almost universally considered a great deal for both Rizzo and the franchise. Sure, the Cubs take on some risk by guaranteeing him a large chunk of money, but if he performs the way the team hopes, the deal will turn out to be an absolute steal. In the meantime, Rizzo is set for life, and the $29 million in team options at the end of the contract give him incentive to continue improving.

The road to this point wasn't a short one for the young slugger. He's been through three organizations, failed miserably in his first dip into the majors, and fought off Hodgkin's lymphoma back in 2008. He's as humble as they come these days, which is why the folks in the front office will be able to sleep easy with their investment.

Including salaries for this season, the Cubs now have $94 million locked up through 2019 in Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the two guys at the major league level already considered cornerstones of the franchise. For comparison, that's $42 million and just one year less than former general manager Jim Hendry committed to Alfonso Soriano before the start of the 2007 season. It also falls in line with the trend around the big leagues to lock up young players like Ryan Braun, Paul Goldschmidt, and Chris Sale to pay them while they're far more likely to provide value.

The extension came as a bit of a surprise considering the comments made Dale Sveum less than a month ago in regards to his young stars about the possibility of them seeing some time down in Iowa. Though the threat was an idle one, Sveum was right about the struggles being unacceptable. As recently as April 25 Rizzo was hitting just .173 with 26 strikeouts in 90 plate appearances combined with boneheaded defensive plays. Since then, he's gone on an absolute tear, hitting .419 while striking out just eight times in 69 plate appearances, and being robbed of countless other singles. He's hit the ball hard in nearly every at bat, and has kept the offense afloat almost single-handedly.

The same can't be said for his partner in crime as a franchise cornerstone. Castro is having his worst season in the majors, barely valuing out as a replacement level player with suspect defense and a career high strikeout rate. Fastballs are consistently eating up the player who was known for possessing one of the quickest bats in baseball just a couple years ago. It's only mid-May, so he'll more than likely break out of his slump, but the organization can't be pleased with his lack of growth to this point.

Despite sitting in last place in the standings, it's been a pretty good year for the organization as a whole. Rizzo is now locked up long term, the Wrigley Field renovation is starting to move into the voting stage in City Council, and the pitching investments the Cubs made in hopes of having tradable assets in July are performing incredibly well. Things are looking up for the future of the franchise. They also possess the second overall pick in a draft that is headlined by two electric arms.

Next up on the docket: an extension for Jeff Samardzija. Stay tuned.

 
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