CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo fulfilled a life-long dream when he signed a seven-year, $41 million contract extension with the team late last week. The deal was announced at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
"The last couple of days have been so nice to play baseball," Rizzo said. "I feel like I'm playing little league now. There is nothing else in the way. It's about the team and nothing else."
"This day has come so fast and when looking back at it when I was a young kid dreaming about this day, it's a surreal moment."
After hitting .285 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in half a season last year, Rizzo and the Cubs had discussions in spring training about a long-term deal, but the talks were tabled until about 10 days ago. A source familiar with the negotiations said after Rizzo got hot, raising his average to .280 while hitting eight home runs in April, the talks began again.
The deal, which includes two additional club option years which could keep him a Cub for nine years, is considered a team-friendly deal, although Rizzo can make up to $73 million with certain incentives.
"To take a little bit of a discount now, but its security for now [too], and a huge weight off my shoulders, my family's shoulders, my kids' shoulders, my grandkids' shoulders," Rizzo said. "It's a good feeling."
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer acknowledged that signing a player to a long-term deal after just half a season -- and a month -- of success is out of the ordinary.
"It's pretty unusual, but I think it's pretty unusual to have a situation like this," Hoyer said. "When you have the president, the GM, the guy that runs scouting, [we've] all known Anthony a long time. We felt like we were in a good position to make that kind of investment."
Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein drafted Rizzo in Boston, then Hoyer traded for him when he was the general manager of the San Diego Padres, and then he did it again when the front office duo came to the Cubs, sending Andrew Cashner to the Padres.
Rizzo was appreciative of that kind of commitment, especially after struggling with the Padres.
"Going back to San Diego, Jed and [scouting director] Jason McLeod saw me at one of my worst professional times," Rizzo said. "When I was down and out and doubting myself at some points and for them to bring me over here to Chicago and have that confidence in me meant the world to me."
The 23-year-old Rizzo is considered one of the centerpieces of the Cubs' rebuilding efforts. He is hitting .280 with a .352 on-base percentage. He also has nine home runs and 28 RBIs in his third major league season.
Rizzo gets a $2 million signing bonus, of which $250,000 is payable within 30 days of the contract's approval by Major League Baseball and $1.75 million is payable next Jan. 15.
He receives a $750,000 salary this year, up from $498,000 under the agreement he reached in March. He then will earn $1.25 million next year, $5 million apiece in 2015 and 2016, $7 million each in 2017 and 2018 and $11 million in 2019.
Chicago has a $14.5 million option for 2020 with a $2 million buyout. If that is exercised, the Cubs will have a $14.5 million option for 2021 with a $2 million buyout.
If an option is declined, the buyout is payable the following Jan. 15. If he wins the NL MVP or finishes among the top five in MVP voting at least twice, his 2019 salary increases to $12 million and the option prices go up to $16.5 million.
In addition, if he finishes among the top two in NL MVP voting in any year through 2019 and then is traded, he can void the 2021 option.
Rizzo hasn't had an easy path to the major leagues. In 2008 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but overcame that illness. He struggled in the minors until his second half call-up last season. Then he took off.
"It's pretty important to all of us," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "The city, the organization, to have someone like that locked up for that long, it's just a pretty special day for all of us."
Fox Sports earlier reported news of the deal.
ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney, ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.