The Chicago Cubs had one of MLB's busiest trade deadlines, moving franchise staples Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Báez to the Yankees, the Giants, and the Mets, respectively, last week as part of a rebuild. (The Cubs also traded reliever Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox.) All three of those individuals are scheduled to hit free agency this winter, which has inspired media members to ask Cubs president of operations Jed Hoyer why he couldn't get extensions done.
Hoyer addressed the topic during a radio appearance on Monday morning with ESPN 1000. "That will probably be my greatest source of frustration from this era. I put my head on the pillow every night knowing we put our best foot forward," Hoyer said, per ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "The extensions we offered these guys will hold up exceptionally well against the open market.
"I don't know why guys didn't want to sign. I don't know why guys didn't want to even counteroffer, oftentimes. Every one of these guys would say they wanted to stay in Chicago, 'we wanted to be a Cub,' but then we would sit down and do negotiations, that wasn't how they acted."
Hoyer presented no material details on the Cubs' offers to those players.
A spring report indicated Chicago had presented Rizzo with a five-year extension worth $70 million -- or, a little over half of what Paul Goldschmidt received from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019. Goldschmidt's contract made for a logical guidepost in Rizzo's negotiations because of their shared position and similar ages and production levels. There's enough fairway between the Cubs' reported offer and Goldschmidt's deal to envision Rizzo's next pact splitting the gap.
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Without any additional information on what the Cubs offered to Rizzo, Bryant, or Báez, Hoyer's intent with his comments are as transparent as the carbon dioxide he expelled to utter them: it's not our fault, folks, the players are just greedy. Perhaps all three are and were seeking more than they will receive, but so what? That's how negotiations work, with teams offering less and both parties attempting to find a suitable compromise. The act of not issuing a counteroffer is, in a sense, a counteroffer itself; one that can lure the other party into raising their offer by more than they would if an actual counteroffer was presented. That's business.
Of course, there's a line of demarcation in baseball for what constitutes "smart business" and what doesn't, and that line is contingent on whether it's the player or the team that is acting within their collectively bargained rights. When Hoyer and the Cubs manipulated Bryant's service time, leaving him a day short of qualifying for free agency a winter earlier -- an act that was met with an unsuccessful grievance -- that was smart business. When the Cubs signed Rizzo to a long-team extension and never corrected the terms as he outperformed (to the extent that FanGraphs estimated he was worth $170 million more than he received), that was smart business. But when the players want their cut, be it by negotiating or by electing to hit the open market to improve their leverage, then it's no longer smart business; it's greed.
This has always been true in baseball, but Hoyer's comments are the latest reminder that nothing -- not playing well, not being a fan favorite, and not winning a championship to break the sport's longest running drought -- can protect a player from being called greedy the minute they're betrothed to a commitment to "smart business" decisions of their own.