Anthony Rizzo cuts off talks with Cubs as free agency looms

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
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MESA, Ariz. — Anthony Rizzo is cutting off talks with the Chicago Cubs on a new contract and is prepared to play the season as free agency looms after the World Series.

The first baseman, who in 2016 helped the Cubs win their first title in 108 years, agreed in March 2013 to a $41 million, seven-year contract that included two team option years. He has a $16.5 million salary this season and set a deadline of opening day for a new agreement.

“Obviously there’s been talks and whatnot, but it doesn’t look like really at this time anything is going to be finalized and look forward to just opening up Thursday and starting this journey with this team,” Rizzo said Monday.

His preference is to stay with the Cubs. He won’t listen to an offer unless it is at a level close to what he thinks the proposal should be.

“We’ve given a lot during this process here and I think with the opening-day deadline, we feel really strong about it,” Rizzo added. “And we’ve had enough time to talk and try to figure it out. But I think once the season starts for me personally, it’s focused on baseball. And if my mind isn’t 100 percent on baseball and it’s elsewhere, it’s hard enough to play. So I think once Thursday comes I think we just – I focus on baseball and that’s it. And I told my agents, I told them really not to talk to me about it anymore, even from this point on really. And like I said earlier, it was good just to have clarity one way or the other, and now I can get ready for the season.”

Third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Javier Baez also are entering the final season of their contracts. Bryant has a $19.5 million salary and Baez $11.65 million.

“When you think of the actual just business side of it,” Rizzo said, “you can’t just be naive to think that just because of what I’ve done here and what I’ve expressed, I’m just – they’re just going to hand me a contract, right? So I have to go out and earn it. And I look forward to just continuing to play and be me.”

Rizzo, who turns 32 in August, hit .222 with 11 homers and 24 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The three-time All-Star has a .271 career average with 229 homers and 753 RBIs in 10 major league seasons.

“I love Chicago. I love the fans. I love Wrigley Field and (what) being a Chicago Cub is all about but obviously it didn’t work out thus far, and that’s OK,” Rizzo said. “I’m at peace with it. I’ve done everything I can.”

Rizzo understands fan unhappiness with a lack of spending by the Cubs and roster additions to the level many would like to see.

“From an outsider looking in, I’d probably be frustrated, too, just because you have this team that’s very talented and we’ve kind of – we haven’t lived up to our expectations the last few years,” Rizzo said. “If I’m sitting back, too, I’m not happy because I want my team to win all the time.”

He knows this is the final season of his contract and has no idea whether this will be his last year with the Cubs.

“I can’t tell you what the future holds,” he said.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.