Wherever you land on the spectrum of hope that they’ll return, or interest in simply moving on, I think it’s worthwhile to track the free agencies of various former Cubs. While Kris Bryant isn’t likely to see his market thin out to the point where a reasonable deal with the Cubs becomes a plausible reality, I could certainly see it happening for Javy Báez or Anthony Rizzo. And it’s not like you can’t make an argument about the fit for either player on a shorter-term, high-AAV deal (neither of whom is eligible for a qualifying offer).
I mean, that’s what we’re talking about the Cubs doing all over the market, so why not some familiar fan favorites who don’t find great offers elsewhere? At least keep the door open, right?
Which is not to say I expect those guys to come back. Heck, with Báez and the Mets apparently getting together on early extension talks, and now the latest on Rizzo, it’s possible neither one leaves New York.
Rizzo and the Yankees might remain a thing:
According to a family member, Anthony Rizzo is quite eager to return to #Yankees in 2022. That’s an important first step, assuming NYY want him back. Have to assume they do.
— Bob Klapisch (@BobKlap) October 25, 2021
If it’s a happy fit, then it might be a situation where Rizzo and the Yankees are content to marry back up on a reasonable deal. Perhaps there is some feeling there of being spurned by the Cubs (whose five-year extension offer before the season now looks like a pretty clear ceiling on anything Rizzo might get), and perhaps Rizzo will value staying in New York, closer to his extended family.
That said, I tend to think Rizzo will explore free agency, given that it’s his first opportunity to do so. I also tend to think the Yankees will be patient on any big expenditures, given their range of needs, substantial payroll, and uncertain (CBA) luxury tax situation.
With the Yankees, Rizzo hit .249/.340/.428 with a 113 wRC+, roughly matching what he’d hit with the Cubs. It was a bounce back from 2020 insofar as 2020 was a near disaster in the shortened pandemic season, but it was a far cry from the offensive stud Rizzo was consistently from 2014 to 2019. Whether there are explanations and flukiness in there, whether it was back issues that’ll linger, or whether it was just a guy turning 31 and then 32, the performance was enough to give you pause about what Rizzo is going to be offensively into his mid-30s. The glove is still fantastic, but you get only so much value from that at first base.
All that said, if Rizzo’s market was never there, and he finds himself in a situation to be looking at short-term deals, then I’d be more than fine with the Cubs getting back involved. It’s not as if the presence of Frank Schwindel and Alfonso Rivas should PRECLUDE a Rizzo reunion if the deal was right. Not only are those two intriguing but unproven, the likely arrival of the DH in the NL means that you’re not necessarily benching anyone to bring back Rizzo. (For the record, I want Schwindel to open the season getting regular starts somewhere regardless of what happens with Rizzo or anyone else at 1B/DH. I just want to see what he can do.)