The first domino of the Yankees’ offseason has fallen, with first baseman Anthony Rizzo returning on a two-year, $34-million deal that includes a club option for a third season at the same AAV. After being publicly touted as the Houston Astros’ biggest priority this offseason, the Yankees gave Rizzo a one million dollar bump in annual salary and keep the 32-year-old in pinstripes for two more years. The move is now official.
And for Rizzo, why wouldn’t you stay? We saw him adapt smoothly to a new hitting approach at Yankee Stadium, taking advantage of the short porch to tie his career high in home runs and a new best ISO. The Yankees have wanted a power-hitting lefty to split up Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton since 2018, and Rizzo was exactly that for the last season and a half.
Keeping Rizzo was also a big part of my initial vision for the offseason. He’s one of the best defensive first baseman this century, and particularly adept at scoops, receiving and footwork around the bag, stuff that’s hard to measure with public facing metrics. With how much the Yankees were going to rely on rookie infielders — Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe are all expected to play significant roles on the 2023 club — it’s a good idea to have a first baseman as strong with the glove as Rizzo.
Last, there’s a leadership element that I think the Yankees value. I see a lot of late-career CC Sabathia in Rizzo, where you know he’s not quite the perennial All-Star that he used to be, and you have to pencil in some IL time likely. In Rizzo’s case, I imagine he will have to miss a couple weeks sometime next summer as he deals with back issues.
The tradeoff for that is that you get to have something resembling a player-coach in the dugout. Sabathia’s talked a lot on his podcast about being a mentor to Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino in the early parts of their careers, and it’s easy to see Rizzo filling a similar role with a young infield. His bromance with Aaron Judge aside, Tony was the heart and soul of the Cubs franchise as well. While he won’t have quite the same emotional connection with the Yankees, I think there is a value to clubhouse leadership, and he brings that.
With a $6 million buyout on the 2025 club option (potentially worth $17 million), Rizzo’s AAV hit is $20 million per Roster Resource, generally the best in the biz at this kind of thing. If he repeats his 132 wRC+ output with trademark outstanding defense, I’m good with this kind of deal. I don’t think you can suss out too much Aaron Judge from this deal, other than the fact that Rizzo clearly wanted to be a Yankee, the Yankees wanted him to stay, and the two sides quickly came to a fair agreement. At the very least, the Yankees may be signaling they’re spending the offseason in good faith.