When it comes to whether the Cubs can keep some of their All-Star core players from the free agent market less than nine months from now, spring hopes never never looked more eternal.
In other words, team president Jed Hoyer said he plans to revisit the possibility of contract extensions some key players during spring training, which opens in Mesa, Arizona, next week.
Whether that includes former MVP Kris Bryant, it almost certainly will involve conversations with three-time All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has been outspoken about his desire to sign an extension, and All-Star shortstop Javy Baez, who was in contract talks a year ago before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sport in March. Baez made it clear even as the abbreviated 2020 season ended in October that he also welcomes talks and a chance to stay in Chicago long-term.
“I’d love to have those discussions this spring. I think that’s a good time for it,” Hoyer said during a Zoom conference with media Monday.
All three of those players are eligible for free agency at the end of the season. Two-time All-Star catcher Willson Contreras — another candidate for extension talks — is eligible a year later.
“I think spring has always been a great time to have those discussions,” said Hoyer, who also did not rule out trades of any of the core players during the spring. “Some guys don’t like it to bleed into the last couple weeks, and some guys are willing to have those discussions [beyond that]. But we’ll certainly have those discussions in spring.”
With less than a full season of service time, Rizzo negotiated into the 2013 season before eventually signing the contract that takes him through this year. Baez said last spring he didn’t put a firm deadline on talks, leaving it in the hands of his agent.
The Cubs have talked with all of these players in recent years about extensions during more robust, stable economic times, including some that progressed deeply into financial parameters, without getting deals done at club-offer levels.
How factors such as the pandemic-related downtown or the specter of what could be contentious negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (for 2022) could impact extension negotiating positions or decisions is anything but clear.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now,” Hoyer said, “and that makes it difficult on both sides.”