Cubs Get A Steal With Anthony Rizzo Again

A little over a year ago, Jed Hoyer acquired Anthony Rizzo for the third time; he was an Assistant GM with Boston when the Red Sox drafted Rizzo in 2007, he was the Padres GM when they acquired Rizzo from the Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez deal in 2010, and then he was the GM of the Cubs when they acquired him from San Diego for Andrew Cashner in 2012. In all three cases, it looks like Hoyer came out on the winning end of the deal, as Rizzo was clearly worth a sixth round pick, is more valuable than Gonzalez by himself at this point, and is certainly a bigger building block for the Cubs future than Cashner would be.

The well traveled youngster can go buy a house now, though, as his days of getting shipped from one city to the next are likely over. Ken Rosenthal first reported that the Cubs signed Rizzo to a seven year, $41 million contract extension that includes a pair of team options, ensuring that Chicago will own his rights through his age-29 season and could retain him through his age-31 season if both options are picked up. And with that deal, it looks like Hoyer and the rest of the Cubs front office is likely to once again come out on the winning end of a deal involving Anthony Rizzo.

Because Rizzo was called up on June 26th of last year — by a complete coincidence I’m sure — he fell four days short of achieving one full year of service time. So, while Rizzo had played almost an entire Major League season, the Cubs still owned his rights for six seasons, including the 2013 season currently underway. By giving him seven guaranteed years and getting two team options, the Cubs bought out four arbitration years and three free agent years for the total price of $68 to $73 million (depending on which incentives he hits) if both options are exercised.

The key there is four arbitration years. The Cubs kept Rizzo in the minors long enough to delay his free agency by a year, but he was a lock to qualify as a Super-Two player after the 2014 season, which meant he would have gone through arbitration a year earlier than most. Because the arbitration system is based on giving escalating raises, the extra trip through arbitration not only would have raised Rizzo’s salary in 2015, it would have also pushed up all of his future arbitration earnings. And that’s why this Rizzo deal looks like a potential steal for the Cubs, especially when compared to the other long term deals that have been signed recently.

The obvious comparisons are the recently completed deals for fellow first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (5/32 with one option, but doesn’t start until 2014) and Allen Craig (5/31 with one option), but there are some real differences here.

Craig, for instance, had already accrued two years of service time, so he was only four years from free agency, and at 28-years-old, the Cardinals already controlled his rights through his age-31 season. The extension bought out one league minimum season, three arbitration years, and then gave them control over his age-32 free agent season and the rights to his age-33 free agent season as well. Even with three trips through arbitration and two free agent years, Craig wasn’t likely to earn drastically more than the $31 million he got from St. Louis in that contract; the Cardinals probably saved something like $10 to $15 million if everything works out, and they took on some extra risk in order to get those savings.

Goldschmidt was also a 1+ service time guy, as Rizzo is, but he was not going to qualify for Super Two status, meaning that the Diamondbacks only bought out three arbitration years rather than four, and while they also guaranteed one free agent year, they got team option, while the Cubs got two with Rizzo.

Essentially, for an extra $10 million guaranteed, the Cubs bought out one more arbitration season, all the subsequent raises that come from being arbitration eligible four times, and got an extra team option for their trouble. That’s not a bad days work, especially considering that of the three first baseman we’re talking about, Rizzo likely has the brightest future. From our depth charts, the ZIPS/Steamer hybrid forecasts for their rest-of-season 2013 performance:

Name Age PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Anthony Rizzo 23 513 0.277 0.346 0.510 0.366 16.8 (1.3) 2.6 2.7
Paul Goldschmidt 25 509 0.272 0.357 0.492 0.364 14.0 0.3 (0.8) 2.2
Allen Craig 28 381 0.290 0.342 0.484 0.355 11.5 (0.6) (1.0) 1.6

If you prorate all those numbers out to 600 plate appearances, Rizzo would be forecast as a +3.2 WAR player, while Goldschmidt would come in at +2.6 and Craig at +2.5. Rizzo is also the youngest of the three, and because of where he is on the growth curve, he’s got the farthest room to grow as well. Rizzo’s power is carrying him at the moment, making up for the fact that he’s a bit too aggressive at the plate, but discipline develops with experience, and Rizzo should be able to add more walks to his profile before his power begins to decline. In his prime, Rizzo should develop into a +4 to +5 win first baseman. In terms of overall value, he projects to be not that different from what Prince Fielder is right now, with his better defense making up for the lower walk rate.

Goldschmidt and Craig are good players, but they’re closer to their ceiling than Rizzo is, and he’s already better than both of them. This isn’t meant to denigrate Goldschmidt or Craig, but neither one comes with his upside. Rizzo is the potential superstar of the trio, and had the Cubs not locked him up, he was probably headed for a monster paycheck in several years. If he develops as expected and stays healthy, he’ll still get one monster payday before he tires, as he’ll be free agent eligible heading into his age-32 season even if the Cubs pick up both of his options, but Chicago did well to make sure that they got his best years at a massive discount.

The Cubs certainly aren’t the first team to lock up a young star to a long term deal, and overall, the prices for most of these deals make them win-wins for everyone. Rizzo is now set for life financially and has safeguarded himself against any future injury problems, and he’s still in line to make plenty of money during his career. With the amount of cash flowing into MLB right now, it makes sense for guys like Rizzo to take advantage and trade some risk for long term security, especially with the declining marginal value of additional dollars.

But, more than most, this deal looks pretty great for the Cubs. Rizzo is exactly the kind of player who would have made a mountain of money by going year-to-year, as Super-Two eligibility would have gotten him large arbitration paydays and he has the skillset that is paid the most in free agency. Had Rizzo not signed this deal, he may very well have been pushing for $30 million per year in a long term deal as a free agent after the 2018 season. Instead, the Cubs will now own his first three free agent years for a $13 million AAV. By 2019-2021, $13 million will probably be a below average salary, and Rizzo is on a path to be a star at that point in his career.

There’s very little downside here for the Cubs. Rizzo basically just has to stay healthy and not regress over the next few years, and at the minimum, the Cubs will save some money in arbitration. If he turns into the franchise first baseman that he looks like right now, the Cubs will be huge winners in the final three years of this deal, potentially saving $50+ million in just those last three years.

Getting Rizzo for Cashner was the real steal, but locking him up at this price isn’t far behind. These are the kinds of moves that will help make the Cubs a formidable foe in the NL Central for the foreseeable future.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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rianwatt
Member
rianwatt
3 years 3 months ago

Couldn’t agree more. Do you have a guess as to what kind of Win $ value we should be using to evaluate the contract over the next few years? The $6mm seems a little high (he’s already produced 16% of the value of the contract this year, by that metric), but maybe it won’t be by 2021?

Person
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

This contract puts him way up there in the Trade Value series, doesn’t it.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 3 months ago

Longoria-esque, to me.

tbjfan
Guest
tbjfan
3 years 3 months ago

More like the Vernon Wells contract, but this one has options.

Of course, I’m talking about the first Vernon Wells deal.

Dustin
Guest
Dustin
3 years 3 months ago

Rizzo is already better than Goldschmidt? News to the leaderboard.

Cus
Guest
Cus
3 years 3 months ago

Seriously, Rizzo is not, and will never be better than Goldschmidt.

Dustin
Guest
Dustin
3 years 3 months ago

I think there’s a decent chance he may be, but I don’t see any reason to think that time is right now. If it’s about production at a given age, Rizzo’s got that edge, but I really don’t think Rizzo is better than Goldschmidt right now.

Straw Man
Guest
Straw Man
3 years 3 months ago

I mean, there is a .2 difference in WAR, .19 difference in wOBA, and 12 difference in wRC+. All while Goldschmidt has a .350 BABIP (though he shows some ability to be a high BABIP guy so far). I don’t see why people are getting their panties in a bunch over the claim that Rizzo will be better this season. It isn’t preposterous and is in fact very possible.

Dustin
Guest
Dustin
3 years 3 months ago

Except that the claim wasn’t that he’ll be better this season. It was claimed that he is already better, which is pretty clearly not supported by anything those 2 have done on the field.

Matthew Murphy
Member
3 years 3 months ago

The claim was that Steamer and ZiPS project Rizzo to be worth more over the remainder of the season, which is true.

Dustin
Guest
Dustin
3 years 3 months ago

“Goldschmidt and Craig are good players, but they’re closer to their ceiling than Rizzo is, and he’s already better than both of them.”

That seems pretty clear cut and implying that Zips or Steamer think this.

Dustin
Guest
Dustin
3 years 3 months ago

…NOT implying…

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 3 months ago

When I saw the 7/41 figure reported for the first time, my immediate thought was “well that’s an embarrassing typo.” My second thought was “would they really pay him $141M over 7 years?”

Hell, if you somewhat conservatively figure Rizzo will be worth 20 wins over those 7 years, that’s $2M per win. If he becomes a star player, the bargain is incredible.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 3 months ago

Yes, it’s an amazing deal. The Cubs will be OK even if he’s an average player and make out like bandits if he’s as good as he probably will be.
I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it.
That doesn’t mean Rizzo was stupid to take it. The marginal value of money beyond $41M to a young man is not much compared to the security.
Ask Tim Lincecum how he feels about turning down at least 5/100 the offseason before last.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 3 months ago

Rizzo’s always been more hyped than Goldschmidt, I still don’t see it to be honest. Let the projections play out, but I’m pretty confident that Goldschmidt will have the better season.

ML
Guest
ML
3 years 3 months ago

Certainly hasn’t passed the eye test yet. Wasn’t Sveum pretty steamed with him a couple weeks ago?

fivetoolmike
Guest
fivetoolmike
3 years 3 months ago

At the time of Sveum’s comments, Rizzo had twice as many HRs as Goldschmidt, a higher slugging percentage, and a BABIP .250 lower than Goldschmidt (.185-.435).

Marver
Guest
Marver
3 years 3 months ago

This was pretty miserable to read as a Padres fan. Fire Byrnes.

Charlie
Member
Charlie
3 years 3 months ago

An absolute steal. GIven the Cubs current debt at the moment, and the unwillingness to spend because of the notion of a “maxed out payroll” right now, this type of deal is a necessity for the Cubs. Not only do I not see a scenario where he doesn’t play up to his contract, I don’t see a scenario where he will not play above his contract.

Steve
Guest
Steve
3 years 3 months ago

Can we get off of Epstein’s sack… ?

El Vigilante
Guest
El Vigilante
3 years 3 months ago

And what’s with the author referring to him as “Jed Hoyer”? What a strange nickname.

B N
Guest
B N
3 years 3 months ago

Re: “I don’t see a scenario where he will not play above his contract.”
1. Hit by a meteor
2. Viral meningitis
3. Rendered blind by inside pitch
4. Severe drug habit
5. Gets lost in the jungle and falls into the land of the lost
6. Converts to being a pitcher

I’m not saying these things are likely, but there are plenty of scenarios I can think of where he doesn’t live up to his contract.

mike
Guest
mike
3 years 3 months ago

He gets hit by a truck tomorrow…

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 3 months ago

Should that be April 26th? Not June 26th? Otherwise, I don’t understand.

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 3 months ago

He was up for a couple of months in 2011 with San Diego so he already had some service time.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 3 months ago

Gotcha. After I wrote the comment, I thought maybe that was it. Thanks.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 3 months ago

Also, addressing the “he’s already better than both of them” aspect, I looked at WAR for the past calendar year. Goldschmidt’s at 4.3 in 155 games, Rizzo’s at 2.8 in 124 games, and Craig’s at 2.4 in 145 games.

I’ll admit that I’m biased towards Goldschmidt, but I don’t think you can make the claim that Rizzo’s already better than him.

Bryce
Guest
Bryce
3 years 3 months ago

Can’t wait to come back and read this when he starts sucking again

Antonio bananas
Guest
Antonio bananas
3 years 3 months ago

You think from age 23-29 he’ll mostly be like he was at 22? Seems a little silly to me.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 3 months ago

Eric Hosmer and Colby Rasmus would like a word.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
3 years 3 months ago

Right, because guys who are (so far) outliers to the typical trend of players getting better through their 20s will predict this one guy. There is a chance you’ll win the lottery too, put your life savings in it because you know, people have won it before so that means you likely will too.

Charlie
Member
Charlie
3 years 3 months ago

Again? Are you referring to his 128 PAs two years ago? If so, I’d restructure your argument on why he will “suck” without giving a mere two player and 128 PAs example.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 3 months ago

It’s a decent deal, but people continue to not seem to understand that they already had him signed to a one year deal with five option years at $10-30 million depending on performance. Guaranteeing the top end and getting 1-3 extra years is a good move, but not wildly better than what they had him signed to last week.

tz
Guest
tz
3 years 3 months ago

Nice deal for the Cubs for sure. One thing I’m beginning to worry about is all the young stars getting signed to long-term contracts means there will be fewer free agents chasing a growing pool of money. We could see some ridiculous salary inflation if that trend plays out.

Preston
Guest
Preston
3 years 3 months ago

If FA dollars substantially inflate, stars will start re-evaluating how worthwhile it is to sign extensions like this. I think some players already realize this, I doubt Bryce Harper signs a team friendly extension.

Zack
Guest
Zack
3 years 3 months ago

This may be a stupid question, but what do you think would happen if the Nats offered Harper something like 10/115? I mean he would be going in to his age 31 season after the contract was over and could still cash in for 150+. The Nats take a lot of risk, but buying out 5 years of FA could provide huge dividends.

Preston
Guest
Preston
3 years 3 months ago

I don’t think that’s anywhere in the ballpark of what it would take. Harper got a very lucrative signing bonus, so he’s not desperate for the monetary security. Considering what a talented underachiever like BJ upton just commanded on the FA market, I think Harper would need a substantially larger contract to even think about giving up that many FA years, because even if he doesn’t live up to his hype, he’s still going to command huge FA dollars because of his age and talent.

Scott Bora$
Guest
Scott Bora$
3 years 3 months ago

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA..haha.hahaha.

HAHAHAHAHAHA…{panting heavily}BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Preston
Guest
Preston
3 years 3 months ago

I don’t know what you’re laughing about Scott, Bryce is going to drop you for Jay-Z the year before he hits the market.

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
3 years 3 months ago

Well said.

It is not quite the Pujols extension or the Longoria deal, but Cub fans should be smiling today.

stan
Guest
stan
3 years 3 months ago

I agree with everyone that this is a great deal for the Cubs. I do have one question though: With respect to the comparison to Goldscmitt and Craig’s deals, I think the analysis is overly generous to the Cubs. In Craig’s case, for instance, the Cardinals already got 2+ years of “free” service before the extended Craig, meaning that they essentially got him for 7/32 (allowing that they paid him about a million in those 2+ years combined) and they also had the advantage of waiting an extra two years before they had to commit to him. Isn’t that better than giving a guy with one year of service time a 7/41 deal? Assuming the two are of equal value for the sake of this comparison, the Cardinals got Craig more cheaply and with less risk.

JayT
Guest
JayT
3 years 3 months ago

When Craig signed his contract he had played 238 MLB games compared to Rizzo who had played 173. I don’t think 65 extra games plays all that much into it. Also, Rizzo was always going to make more than someone like Craig who didn’t start contributing at the ML level until he was 26.

stan
Guest
stan
3 years 3 months ago

So you think the fact that Craig was blocked by Berkman, Holliday and Pujols in 2011 means something in terms of a future contract? Did Craig make less during that year just because he wasn’t playing as often? Are you trying to say that Rizzo is almost as much of a known quantity? I guess that could be true.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
3 years 3 months ago

Why do you say Craig is less risky? He got called up late. This is as good as he’ll get in all likelihood and it likely won’t last more than a few years.

stan
Guest
stan
3 years 3 months ago

I didn’t say Craig was less risky. I said the Cardinals took on less risk because they waited two years before they signed him long-term. They had a better idea of what they were getting and obviously the total length of the contract was two years shorter. The Cubs get two extra years of risk if Rizzo gets seriously injured or flops.

Gleb
Guest
Gleb
3 years 3 months ago

Goldscmidt is better now, be the better player long term.

Steve
Guest
Steve
3 years 3 months ago

Goldschmidt > Rizzo > Craig. Game, set, match.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 3 months ago

Very convincing argument.

Charlie
Member
Charlie
3 years 3 months ago

“Get off Goldschmidt’s sack.”

JS7
Guest
JS7
3 years 3 months ago

Rizzo > Cashner.

TimothyS
Guest
TimothyS
3 years 3 months ago

While Goldschmidt might have been the better player to this point in the season, he almost definitely won’t be the better player long term, and there is a decent chance he won’t be the best over the rest of the season. The age difference is pretty large at this point.

dustin
Guest
dustin
3 years 3 months ago

Almost definitely? Based on what, exactly? The age difference is less than 2 years. Not insignificant, but “pretty large” seems like a convenient way of framing an argument that isn’t all that compelling. By virtue of not being a college guy, Rizzo has nearly 2600 PA’s in professional baseball. Goldschmidt is just over 2300. College time certainly counts, but they seem to be in pretty similar points on their development curve. I think a poll of GM’s would be fairly evenly split if given a choice between the two. Perhaps I’m missing something about Rizzo, but he seems at best a coin flip to outproduce Goldschmidt.

Daniel
Member
Daniel
3 years 3 months ago

Based on what? Your regular conversations with GMs?

Rizzo could walk more, sure. But he also makes significantly better contact than Goldschmidt.

If you take out Goldschmidt’s pretty significant BAbip advantage, I don’t really see much in the way of current differences between the two. Given Rizzo is two years younger, that makes me pick him to be the better long-term.

K
Guest
K
3 years 3 months ago

Guess Rizzo is not super confident in his abilities… Because he might have cost himself some money in the long term with this deal

Straw Man
Guest
Straw Man
3 years 3 months ago

Or he took 30 million on the table over the possibility of 100 million in a couple years. A reasonable decision.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 3 months ago

This is a good deal for the Cubs but Dave’s comments that imply that Rizzo is the superior player to Goldschmidt are laughable at best. Goldschmidt’s slash line of .312/.406/.587 is clearly superior to Rizzo’s .277/.348/.527. Not to mention that his 10 home runs and 31 RBIs are both tied for 6th in all of MLB. This doesn’t even take into account his steady defense and emergence within the Dbacks dugout as a true leader. It’s also insane to make a statement that Rizzo’s ceiling is clearly superior given that Goldschmidt is only 25 and has shown dramatic improvement each of the past three years. I actually think its possible that Rizzo’s ceiling may not even reach the heights that Goldschmidt reaches in 2013 because I think Goldy will get strong MVP consideration this year.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 3 months ago

I guess you’re pretty confident that he’ll keep that .450 BABIP up.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 3 months ago

Do you mean the .355 BABIP which is only slightly above his career mark of .340?

Michael Morgan
Guest
Michael Morgan
3 years 3 months ago

High BABiP is a signature trait of a True Leader™.

Dustin
Guest
Dustin
3 years 1 month ago

Rizzo at 37 on the trade value list. I wonder where Goldschmidt will rank? Might be time to check in on their season to date stats now as well.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 11 months ago

Hahaha, this article is pretty funny right now.

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