Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs

The Cubs made their first baseman Anthony Rizzo a rich man on Sunday night, signing the oft-traded slugger to a seven-year contract extension which includes two additional options. The first seven years of this deal are worth $41 million, with the two options valued at $14.5 million each, as per breaker of news and destroyer of souls Ken Rosenthal.

The deal was met with universal praise, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs calls it “another steal” for the Cubs, who acquired Rizzo from the Padres in exchange for flamethrowing (but frequently injured) pitcher Andrew Cashner.

The deal does look rather team friendly, buying up all four of the potential Super-Two’s arbitration years as well as a few free agent years for good measure, all at a price the Cubs can certainly handle.

But while others label Rizzo a potential star, I wasn’t so sure. But then I remember the great leveler: age.

Anthony Rizzo is off to a hot start in 2013, posting much better numbers than either of his first two trips around the Majors. At 23-years old, his numbers look…pretty good? There’s an old saw about not locking up non-elite first baseman. I was left wondering: is Rizzo an elite first baseman?

If he isn’t now, he is certainly on track to be. Players who hit as well as he does at a young age tend to hit even better when they reach their peak. Not many first baseman over the past dozen years or so can claim to be as good as Rizzo when they were as young as Rizzo.

Other first baseman like Paul Goldschmidt and Allan Craig might have better numbers to date, but as Cameron notes, they’re much closer to their peaks and Rizzo has a lot more time to grow into this, delivering value all the way.

Only Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder carried a 120 wRC+ through their age-24 season. Rizzo is sitting at 138 wRC+ this season, 109 for his career. Should he finish the year as projected (closer to 130 or so) he might just slip into the 120 wRC+ class.

There is obviously risk in signing any player with just one year of service time through his age 29 season, but the long history between Rizzo and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer mitigates that some. Hoyer drafted Rizzo in Boston, traded for him when he went to San Diego and brought him in again once Hoyer got to Chicago.

The Cubs are paying for potential, secure in the knowledge that Rizzo has plenty. As is the trend continues, even teams with deep pockets will struggle to find places to spend it, so they are more and more likely to take calculated risks with their own talent rather than striking out in search of the increasingly rare free agent catch.

And the rest

Amazing must read number one: the swing of Bryce Harper [Washington Post]

Amazing must read number two: the defense and mind of Andrelton Simmons [Eno @ Fangraphs]

Your boy Parkes on the death of the game story [Fanatico]


Which team has the most money sitting on the disabled list? (Awesome) [New York Times]

Jon Heyman, the king of all media, sabrmetrics included? [Baseball Prospectus]

Justin Upton on his return to Arizona [Piecoro the best]

Yu Darvish and the auxiliary benefits of an ace [Newberg Report]

The great wormhole that is Baseball Reference [Sports on Earth]

DRAMA, even funnier/dumber in hindsight – “THERE WAS NO LAUGHING LAST NIGHT”