Last week the Cubs signed first baseman Anthony Rizzo for the next seven seasons and maybe a couple beyond that as the team continues to peg and secure its long-term core.

This deal came as no surprise for several reasons.

Rizzo has long been connected to Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, going back to their Red Sox days (and later with Hoyer and McLeod in San Diego). They have now drafted him, traded for him twice and signed him to his first multiyear big-league contract.

But while their relationship runs deep, don't let that give you the impression that Rizzo was handed some sort of blindly loyal, player-friendly deal. He needed to show them that he could handle major-league pitching at this level, particularly after a dismal debut with the Padres a couple of years ago.

Last season he did that, putting up a .285/.342/463 slash-line in 87 games, and he has followed it up by hitting for even more power this year.

The contract length could really benefit the Cubs down the road. The deals given to Rizzo and Starlin Castro buy out their arbitration years and some free agency … at rates that in the end could look like nice bargains.

Yes, there always is the chance that their "high-ceiling" potential is not reached. But the floor is being set as I write this, and it is improbable to imagine that either guy will get worse as he gets into his prime years.

As baseball columnist Joe Sheehan tweeted regarding the Rizzo deal, "All upside, almost no downside."

On the other side of these pacts, you may be asking, why would Castro and Rizzo give up their enormous potential earning power when they reach 27 or 28? Again, it's all about risk-reward.

The prevailing thought is that young players should generally accept that first long-term deal in order to take care of their family and guard against a career-ending injury.

You know, take the millions now, secure your financial future, go out and be great, and then play hardball if you want to with your next contract. When you're 22 or 23 and staring at a guaranteed $41 million or $60 million, it's tough to turn down.

There really doesn't seem to be too much debate regarding these deals — the Cubs did what pretty much every other team in their situation would have done.