The Yankees have reportedly re-signed first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a two-year, $32 million deal with a player opt-out after the first year. Rizzo will be 33 in August and last season hit a combined .248/.344/.440 with a 112 wRC+ with the Chicago Cubs and the Yankees. A longtime Cubs fan favorite, he posted a .249/.340/.428 slash line after being traded to the Yankees along with a bag of cash on July 29 for prospects Kevin Alcantara and Alexander Vizcaino. Here are my thoughts on the deal:
It’s a Win-Win for Team & Player
Sometimes, the boring and safest option could also end up being the best one. The Yankees were able to balance out their lineup by signing Rizzo without giving up the blue chip prospects that were required to pry Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics, and they avoided the huge commitment of giving Freddie Freeman the six years and $180 million he is reportedly seeking. Sure, Yankees Twitter has become an absolute cesspool of complaints about the front office because Olson and Freeman are objectively better players, but $16 million AAV for a projected 2-3 fWAR player is a solid piece of business.
For Rizzo, who didn’t seem to have many options on the free-agent market, he gets the opportunity to play a full season (maybe; more on that later) in a familiar environment in the Bronx hitting in front of Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and Giancarlo Stanton. This should provide him with many opportunities to get on base and score some runs. If he’s a world beater, he can opt out and test the market again next offseason, and if not, he can sign up to make another $16 million playing for a likely contender. Seems like a pretty good deal to me!
There’s Traffic in the Infield
Currently, the Yankees have Rizzo, Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Luke Voit as the big league infielders. There’s no chance Giancarlo Stanton plays the outfield on a regular basis, so that’s six guys for four starting spots. It wouldn’t be shocking, therefore, if Brian Cashman has another move left, perhaps trading Torres or Voit for an upgrade in center field or the starting rotation.
Can He Play?
This should have been everyone’s immediate reaction last night given the social media circus around Aaron Judge’s vaccination status. As of August, Rizzo was unvaccinated, and if this is still the case, none of the above really matters since he would be ineligible to play over 90 of the Yankees’ games. Granted, a lot can change over the course of the next seven months, and we still don’t have an update on Rizzo’s vaccination status, but until there is clarity on this situation, Rizzo’s availability should be a concern.