Anthony Rizzo has read and heard the Red Sox trade rumors just like all the other Cubs fans have.
“I have my friends texting me here and there,” said the Cubs first baseman, whose hitting is the only thing heating up faster than trade rumors in the final days before Friday’s 3 p.m. deadline.
Rizzo, who was originally drafted by Theo Epstein’s Red Sox in the sixth round in 2007, doesn’t seem to see the weird full-circle element of that scenario as much as he seems to be trying to ignore the increasing trade chatter drowning out all the baseball on the North Side.
“It’s a rumor. We’ll see,” said Rizzo, whose first-inning home run was his third in as many days — making him 7-for-15 (.467) since the start Friday of what might be the final homestand for the Cubs’ championship core of Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javy Báez.
“Whatever happens is out of my control right now,” added the lefty slugger with the spiking trade value. “To speculate I’m going to go here or I’m going to go there, that’s playing the child game on our end.”
But sources say the interest by the Red Sox is real, if not significant, and subject at this point to the Cubs coming off what’s considered a high asking price.
Rizzo, who’s in the final months of a team-friendly deal he signed during his first full season in the big leagues in 2013, said he’s trying to keep the faith that he’ll stay in a Cubs uniform not only through Friday but for the next several years.
“This place is special,” he said, looking across Wrigley Field as he spoke this week with NBC Sports Chicago. “If [traded], I’ll deal with it. But as of right now, I plan on being a Cub for the rest of my career.”
The Cubs haven’t talked to Rizzo about a possible extension since Rizzo rejected an offer believed to be in the four-year, $65 million range just before the season opened.
That’s expected to change by the end of the season if he doesn’t get traded before the only trade deadline of the year (the August waiver-trade period not in effect this season) — or possibly even once he becomes a free agent after the season, whether he’s traded or not.
“I just think all of that stuff will take care of itself the way it’s supposed to, whether it’s how I’ve stated I’ve felt in the past,” he said of that desire to be a Cub for life, “or it doesn’t work out that way.”
Since he rejected the last extension offer, Rizzo was sidelined three games by his annual bout with back tightness, made headlines in June when he said he’s one of the unvaccinated players keeping the Cubs from reaching the threshold for lifting some COVID-19 restrictions and was mired in a monthlong, sub-.200 slump that included just two home runs during a 27-game stretch — one fewer than he hit in the last three games.
“Just taking it day by day,” he said of the surreal nature of the long slump into this final week before this potentially franchise-altering trade deadline.
“Definitely a little bit different,” he added. “You just play baseball. Stick to your routine. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
Rizzo, who said in June he was waiting to find out more about the vaccines, said he didn’t want to talk about whether he had changed his thinking on it with the new information that has become available in the last seven weeks since then.
Rizzo, a longtime fan favorite who also has spent much of his time and other resources away from the field fighting pediatric cancer, pushed back when it was pointed out the start of his slump coincided roughly with the public backlash he experienced for the first time in his career after admitting he wasn’t vaccinated.
Whether the strangeness of that career-first response from part of the fan base had anything to do with the slump or whether it was a function of pressing as the team struggled or simply a long stretch against top pitching, declined to “go down that hole.”
“I said what I said and moved on, and that’s it,” he said.
The moving-on part has become a theme this week for Rizzo and the remaining championship core that put together the best six-year run in franchise history — with reliever Andrew Chafin traded Monday night and as many as five or six more on the block heading toward the deadline.
That, too, is of course a first in his career — at least since that six-year run began.
“By Saturday morning when you wake up, there will probably be a lot of well written journalism [about what happened],” he said (especially at NBC Sports Chicago, he agreed).
“I know the next four or five days are going to feel like forever for everyone,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”