Anthony Rizzo still optimistic Cubs can get a contract extension done this springRussell Dorseyon March 12, 2021 at 11:16 pm

John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

First baseman Anthony Rizzo says his deadline will be Opening Day. Hopes to focus on the season after that.

Anthony Rizzo isn’t worried about his contract status and after expressing his desire to try to work out a contract extension this spring, the Cubs’ first baseman is still hopeful the two sides can get something done prior to Opening Day.

President Jed Hoyer has spoken this spring about how the team would still like to talk to some of their impending free agents about staying in Chicago long term. Rizzo, Javy Baez and Kris Bryant are all set to hit the market at the end of the season.

“I’m very optimistic,” Rizzo said “We got a couple more weeks until opening day. Everything between now and then is exciting stuff. Either good or bad, whatever happens is exciting and for the future. Once Opening Day comes, this team is going to be focused on just playing baseball.

“For everything that I’ve expressed about wanting to be here and we’ve had really good conversations top to bottom. Just for me and everything I put into my teammates, they deserve all the I have this year, and I’ll give that to them and our fans, and once April 1 comes, it’s all about baseball. It’s not about money. It’s not about contract extension or future. It’s about April 1 and winning that game and getting the best out of everyone on the team.”

Rizzo’s sentiment about being in Chicago long term is one shared by his fellow teammates who are set to hit the market. The value of comfort and the environment created over the last eight years can’t be understated. Those things have helped lure players like left fielder Joc Pederson in free agency and were a reason right-hander Jake Arrieta returned this offseason.

“I think it’s a testament to ownership and the front office and the coaching staff and all the staff that guys want to be here,” Hoyer said last month. “They enjoy the environment. Obviously, we got the ballpark and the fan base and the city, but people want to be here. And that’s a great thing. … I think that’s great that they feel that way about this place. And, you know, it’d be disappointing after this much time with these players if they felt otherwise.”

It appeared the Cubs would be heading toward a rebuild this offseason after the trade of Yu Darvish, the non-tender of Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr., but the fact that they were able to find the means to make additions late in the offseason didn’t go unnoticed by the Cubs’ vocal leader.

While being in Chicago is Rizzo’s top priority, being in a winning environment is just as important for the 31-year-old first baseman.

“It’s big. [Winning] is big,” Rizzo said. “My goal is bringing the next championship here in Chicago. It’s coming, it’s coming soon. It’s coming to the city and that’s my focus. It’s how are we going to win? We feel really good. It’s March. Everyone feels good, right? But we got to go and build and believe and gain momentum.

“But as far as potentially rebuilding and all that stuff they’ve been, [people] have been trading guys and blowing up this team for the last three years. So it’s all part of the business, what comes with it and just staying focused on the task at hand.”

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