Well, if you wanted the Yankees to snag some left-handed bats, you got what you asked for. Less than 24 hours after landing Joey Gallo, the team traded for Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, bringing a whirlwind infield situation into focus.
Luke Voit’s injury-plagued 2021 has led to an extremely fluid infield group, where in any one three-game series you’re likely to see three different starting quartets. Adding Rizzo, who sports a 115 wRC+ and leads all MLB first basemen with 7 OAA, locks down that key position for the rest of the season.
Two of the biggest problems the Yankees have had this year are the lack of any power from the left side, and poor defense. Rizzo immediately steps in to help plug both holes — he doesn’t have the raw power of Gallo, but his 14 home runs slot him two ahead of Rougned Odor for the most by a lefty hitter on the club. He hasn’t walked as much as he has in recent seasons, although a move to a team that values discipline so much will probably help that. As it is, he’s no free swinger, with a 15.6 percent K rate that’s the second-lowest on the team, a nice balance after the acquisition of Gallo.
And then there’s the defense. First base defense isn’t something you notice until you don’t have it — infield scoops save throwing errors from other players, and Rizzo’s also shown that he can make plays himself:
Anthony Rizzo was mic’d up while chasing Freddie Freeman in a rundown— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) April 19, 2021
There has been a lot of criticism directed at the front office this season, a good chunk of it coming from yours truly. But credit where it’s due: The Yankees have seen the problems on this roster and have made two real strides to address them. They’re more powerful than they were yesterday, and they’re a much better defensive ballclub.
Of course this leaves open questions around the future of Luke Voit. He doesn’t have a place on a roster that keeps Giancarlo Stanton at DH. There have been rumors he’s on the block as the team tries to add a pitcher, so stay tuned to PSA if there’s some fire behind that smoke.