“His job should be easier now,” Alfonso Soriano said. “He has the money now. He works hard and deserves it. Now he has to keep focused, play hard and not worry about money.”
Rizzo, whose closest friends on the team actually knew that the contract was done last week, seemed relieved at his press conference announcing the contract.
“I am very happy for him,” said Starlin Castro, who signed his own seven-year, $60 million deal last August. “He is not only a teammate but a good friend. We hang out outside of the stadium too. I am happy that he and I might be here a long time together.”
Castro was asked if Rizzo will feel more pressure living up to the new deal.
“There is no pressure at all,” he said. “You just play hard and help your team try to win.”
Cubs reliever James Russell feels that the Cubs’ commitment to paying young players who work hard could motivate the minor league stars in the organization.
“It is not really a shot in the dark with either Rizzo or Castro,” Russell said. “They both have all the tools in the world and have shown on the field they can do their job.
“It definitely should pump up guys like (Javier) Baez and (Jorge) Soler,” he said. “I know Soler got a big contract to sign but those can be increased if you play well. Just as long as he doesn’t have any major hiccups in the minor leagues.”
Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, who told a small group of reporters on Monday he is not thinking about a long-term deal right now, was in agreement on the feel-good effect of his teammates’ newfound riches.
“This is exciting for the organization and for a class-act guy like Rizz,” Samardzija said. “You have to have a group of close-knit guys who love playing together. We have guys who love playing together and spending time with each other.
“Cassy and Rizzo are a great examples of what we want to do in the future. If you do what they do -- working hard and do whatever it takes to win ball games -- that is what it is all about.”
Russell may have the best short-term view of Rizzo’s mega-million deal.
“I am happy it happened to one of my friends so he can buy me dinners and lunches all the time,” Russell said. “He can also take me and the guys out and pick up the bar tab.”