Earlier this month we talked about the coming opt out decision for New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and what might happen if he reaches free agency again. Rizzo’s two-year, $32 million deal with the Yankees was really more like a one-year, $16 million deal with a one-year, $16 million player option thereafter for 2023.
For his part, Rizzo wholly shut down any discussion whatsoever about the opt out or his 2023 plans during the season. But now that the Yankees’ season is over, it’s fair to ask again: what does Rizzo think he’ll do?
“At this point, I’ll sit down my wife and I’ll sit down by agents and we’ll talk about all that,” Rizzo told NJ.com after the Yankees’ season ended at the hands of the Astros in the ALCS. “I’ve told (Yankees management) since signing the deal we’re not going to talk about it until after the season. Now in the next few weeks, it’s time to talk about it.”
But when pressed on what will factor into his decision, Rizzo was understandably reluctant to dig in too deep last night.
“I don’t know,” Rizzo said. “We just got swept in the LCS, so the business side of it right now is so far away. It’s just sucks.”
Far away emotionally, perhaps, but not so much chronologically. The World Series begins on Friday, and could end as soon as next Tuesday. When the World Series ends, that’s when the five day clock begins for players like Rizzo, 33, to make options decisions. During that time, he and his agent will no doubt be talking to the Yankees about the possibility of tacking on another year or two to his deal, and/or gauging what they think the open market will bear.
The NJ.com piece speculates that the Cubs could be interested in a reunion with Anthony Rizzo, which does have some superficial merit. There’s the obvious past connection. The Cubs have a dire need for left-handed power. There is a wide open spot at first base.
THAT SAID, I wonder if the Cubs would prefer someone like Jose Abreu. We’ve seen those rumors, and in the case of Abreu, it’s a whole lot less thorny to make changes if, say, Matt Mervis is raking and starts eating into Abreu’s starts at first (especially if Abreu is on a short-term deal). If the Cubs were to re-sign Rizzo – on a multi-year deal, mind you – then he’s locking down first base, full stop. That’s just what that relationship would be. I’m not saying that is a BAD thing; I’m saying only that the Cubs may want more flexibility.
And, in Rizzo’s case, there’s an additional layer to be considered: the Qualifying Offer.
Speaking of which, it’ll be an interesting opt-out decision for Rizzo. He’s set to make $16 million in 2023 for his age 33 season, and just hit .224/.338/.480/132 wRC+ for the Yankees, where he’s clearly a great fit for that stadium. One year and $16 million sure feels light, though if he opts out, the Yankees can then make him a qualifying offer (one year and $19-ish million), at which point he becomes attached to draft pick compensation if he declines. Not ideal for him. Opting out seems highly likely at this point (well, maybe trying to negotiate an addition year or two before that), and then the qualifying offer seems equally likely. It’s possible Rizzo’s agent would urge him to accept, given how rough the market could be for him – fair or unfair – with draft pick compensation attached.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, no, I don’t see an obvious reunion opportunity there with the Cubs. I think the Cubs do need left-handed power, and they obviously have a huge opening there at first base. But I also think the Cubs are going to want to allocate their resources in spots other than first base, and I also wonder if it’s just too recent for each side to really try to come back together on a new deal. Also, I would think a short-term deal at first base makes the most sense for the Cubs, who probably want to at least leave open the POSSIBILITY that Matt Mervis grabs the job and runs with it. If Rizzo is opting out and declining a qualifying offer, he will not be looking for a one-year deal. Gut says he’s going to wind up sticking with the Yankees, either on the qualifying offer, or on a new two or three-year deal.