Cubs’ Hoyer confident deal with Rizzo will be worked out

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer insisted Wednesday he is confident Anthony Rizzo will remain in Chicago beyond this season even though the star first baseman is cutting off talks on a new contract.

Though his preference is to stay with the Cubs, Rizzo set an opening-day deadline for a new agreement. The three-time All-Star said this week he won’t listen to an offer once the season starts unless the proposal is close to what he thinks it should be.

“I don’t think there’s any bigger Anthony Rizzo supporter out there than I am,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, I want him playing first base for the Chicago Cubs for a long time, in 2022 and beyond. I’ve made that really clear to him throughout the process.”

Hoyer said he is “very confident” a deal will get done. He also said he respects Rizzo’s decision to limit talks once the season starts Thursday, though the Cubs will remain open to negotiating during the year.

“We have no reason not to talk in season,” Hoyer said.

Rizzo, who in 2016 helped the Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908, 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.

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.

He’s not the only Cubs star with an expiring contract.

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

“As with Anthony, we have a lot of great players in contract years,” Hoyer said. “Certainly, our hope is we can have some of those players beyond 2021.”

Like Rizzo, Bryant (.206, four homers, 11 RBIs) and Baez (.203, eight homers, 24 RBIs) struggled in the pandemic-shortened season. Bryant was bothered by injuries and Baez struck out 75 times in 59 games.

The Cubs still managed to win the NL Central after missing the playoffs in 2019. But they ranked among the worst in the majors with a .220 batting average. In their first-round playoff series against Miami, they managed just one run in a two-game sweep.

How Rizzo, Bryant and Baez perform in the early going could go a long way toward determining whether the Cubs look to add or trade players prior to the deadline. The fact that their contracts are expiring adds another layer of uncertainty.

“That’s something we’re gonna have to live with as a team,” Hoyer said. “We have so many guys in free agent years. That’s gonna have to be something that this team is able to handle.”

The Cubs traded ace Yu Darvish to San Diego in the offseason. Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber signed with the Washington Nationals. And fans made it clear they weren’t happy with their team’s spending.

But when it comes to Rizzo, Hoyer remains confident.

“I have expressed to him over and over that we want to have him back,” he said. “I have confidence that we will bring him back. We’ve expressed how we see the path to a deal.”

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”