Updated: Mar 22
Yankees bring back the first baseman on a two-year deal, but what impact will it have on the position after the first week of Spring Training.
CC: The Daily Crypto
TAMPA, F.L, (3-21-2022) - The first week of MLB Spring Training wrapped up with the New York Yankees doing what they do best: spending big money in free agency and making blockbuster trades. One move saw them bring back first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who they traded for in the second half of the 2021 season.
On July 29, 2021, the Yankees acquired Rizzo, who was in the last year of his seven-year contract, from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for OF Alexander Vizcaíno and RHP Kevin Alcántara. In only two games, Rizzo made an immediate impact by going 4 for 5 with 2 plus hits, 2 solo home runs (in each of his two games), 3 walks, and 5 runs overall, becoming the first player in the franchise history to achieve this feat. On Sept. 30, Rizzo recorded his 250th career home run against the Toronto Blue Jays, becoming the first Yankees player since Derek Jeter to reach this milestone with the team.
Rizzo finished the second half of the 2021 season recording 32 runs, 43 hits and a .241 batting average for the Yankees. On March 17, 2022, the Yankees signed Rizzo to a two-year, $32 million deal after he tested free agency.
After his first workout with the Yankees that same day, Rizzo said he's excited to return to the Bronx and help the team win the world series for the first time since 2009.
"This is where we wanted to be,” Rizzo said. "It’s a great fit for trying to win a World Series and that’s what it’s all about here. And that’s the best thing to ask for the players, to be on the team that’s competing to win the last game.”
The Yankees had to address their depth at first base and fans thought they could fix it by trading for Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olsen or signing Atlanta Braves all star Freddie Freeman.
However, the choice narrowed down to brining back Rizzo after the Braves traded for Olsen and Freeman signed a six-year, $162 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While fans would've preferred the Yankees signed Freeman (since he recorded 120 runs, 31 home runs and a .300 batting average.) However, Freeman's asking price and interest in playing for a West Coast team made it clear he would not wear the pinstripes on opening day.
In hindsight, Rizzo looks to be a cheaper version of Freeman. He had already been with the Yankees for a year and can work with new acquisitions Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson. Also, being a left-handed batter gives the team more versatility. Rizzo's on base average rounded to .344 while Freeman's rounded to .393.
Rizzo won four Gold glove Awards, a Platinum Glove Award and helped the Cubs break their 108 World Series drought in 2016. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said his accolades and his playing style proved he's more than a one-year rental.
“He plays the position with ease. Obviously a former Gold Glover. (He has) just really, really good footwork and feel around the bag,” Boone said. “He plays the position very aggressively. Able to athletically kind of move and make throws and things like that. … He’s aggressive with the (pickoff) game. … He’s fearless out there. "
Rizzo stats prove he can be a solid first baseman for the Yankees and he hopes to pick up where he left off with his teammates.
“I think just walking in and being able to make jokes right away and talk to the guys right away and … I’m still introducing myself to a lot of people, but most of the guys here last year, by the end of the year, we’re all hanging out and pretty close.”
The addition of Rizzo also came at the right time because on Friday, March 18, the Yankees traded 1B Luke Voit to the San Diego Padres in exchange for RHP Justin Lange. This renders the top 1B choices to Rizzo and D.J LeMaheiu.
Boone said his team had little to work with given the shortened free agency and Spring Training.
“I haven’t seen much cash in the last couple days,” Boone said. “So I know those guys are working overtime right now, especially on top of obviously trying to round out our club and explore different options, things like arbitration numbers and things. So there’s a lot going on in this condensed version with a three-month shut-down of the offseason. So the front office has a lot on their table.”