Anthony Rizzo knows that baseball is a business, and "everyone has been manipulated"

Cam Ellis
NBC Sports Chicago

Anthony Rizzo is well aware that baseball is a business. Maybe he learned it after being traded twice before ever playing a season's worth of games, or when the Cubs came out this winter and all but squashed the idea of a contract extension. Either way, the veteran has no illusions where front office allegiances lie when push comes to shove. 

"You know, in this business – listen, right now more than ever, baseball players are being treated like commodities. We want to win, because that's what we're bred to do, be baseball players and win. And then on the other side of it, we want to make as much money as we can in the short amount of time we can." 

Anthony Rizzo is also well aware of the optics surrounding well-compensated players complaining about salary issues. For players, being honest about the sport's fiscal trends is a lose-lose in the court of public perception – a PR issue that ownership groups around the league aren't exactly jumping at the opportunity to correct. 

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"I've said this before: I get to do the fun part, and my agent gets to do the not so fun part, and then we just relay," he said. "I don't think I'm a businessman. I have an idea of what goes on, but us players, like I said, we're very comfortable, we're very lucky, we're very fortunate to make a lot of money doing what we love to do, coming to baseball heaven.

"I think in this game, and how much this game is making, it's not far off for us players to speak up, because there's billions and there's millions. There's a big difference between the B and the M."

While labor discussions have taken somewhat of a back seat to the Houston Astros' cheating scandal this spring, the concerning pattern within some of baseball's richest front offices hits especially close to home in Mesa, where one of the Cubs' best players – Kris Bryant – just wrapped up a grievance battle against his own employer. Bryant lost. 

"For Kris, obviously his resume: Rookie of the Year, MVP, World Series – his case was the strongest, I think, of anyone. Especially the spring he had in 2015, coming up, Rookie of the Year, after missing a couple days. His case was strong. For someone like Kris to stand up like that is good for everyone."

Given the ruling, Rizzo and Bryant are now positioned to enter free agency at the same time, coincidentally enough. And if you think service time manipulation ends when players establish themselves as bonafide major league stars, think again. "I think I'm two, three games short of a full year, every year," Rizzo quipped. "In this game, everyone has been manipulated, some way or some form."

Rizzo also pointed to, somewhat ironically, the Padres as an example of how teams should treat their young talent. It was San Diego, after all, that took heat back in 2011 for keeping Rizzo in Triple-A until his "Super Two" exception – a contractual clause that dictates an extra year of salary arbitration eligibility – kicked in. More recently, the Padres took a different approach to their latest young prospect, superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. Instead of playing around with Tatis' eligibility, the Padres called him up immediately, and he was their starting shortstop for last year's Opening Day. Injuries cost Tatis about half the season, and yet he still hit .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs, good for a 150 wRC+ and 3.6 WAR. 

"... having Tatis Jr. start off with your team – that's a big boost for your team," he said. "They don't keep him down and try to manipulate him. Just the morale, so, I think when you put the best product on the field at all times, that's what's best for the game." 

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