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The Anthony Rizzo deal only helps the Yankees

The Italian first baseman is back in The Bronx, and every Yankees fan should be happy (and relieved).

Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It was announced yesterday that the New York Yankees were able to sign Anthony Rizzo to a two-year contract worth $40 million guaranteed with a $6 million buyout on a $17 million club option. General manager Brian Cashman locking down someone as important to the lineup as Rizzo is huge for the team’s next couple seasons.

The Yankees without Rizzo would have been in a tough spot, especially considering the Houston Astros were reportedly looking to add his services to the World Series-winning lineup. Losing their most impactful left-handed bat and a fielder that can make up for plenty of bad throws by his other infielders would be hard to replace. There isn’t a player like Rizzo in this year’s first base free agent class, and despite the Yankees having a player like DJ LeMahieu, who can play the first base position, it would jeopardize more of the infield. Having Rizzo in the fold gives the Yankees enormous flexibility in how they fill out the rest of the roster.

The Yankees don’t have to worry about shifting LeMahieu to the cold corner. Now that they have re-signed one of the core pieces of a roster that has the potential to go far in the playoffs, they can focus on other things; namely, re-signing Aaron Judge, who is officially a free agent at this point. As much as I’m sure plenty of fans would like to see Judge re-signed early, it may be for the best that the Yankees locked down Rizzo so they could reassure the big right fielder during negotiations that one of his good friends and a talented player was coming back for another shot at a World Series berth. More importantly, the Yankees moving swiftly to bring back Rizzo will hopefully signal to Judge that they are serious about improving the entire roster, beyond just re-signing Judge himself.

Not only does Rizzo provide inherent value in the Yankees lineup, but him not leaving and signing with the Astros is a massive boost for obvious reasons. The pill would have been tough to swallow if he had gone to a different team in the first place. But if he left for one of the Yankees’ biggest rivals and the team that swept them in the American League Championship Series on their way to a championship? That would be salt in the already gaping wound.

So, not only does re-signing Rizzo allow the Yankees more roster flexibility and give them a crucial left-handed power bat, but he isn’t going to be playing them in any postseason scenarios. Considering how he performed this year in the playoffs (slashed .276/.432/.552 with a wRC+ of 185), I don’t think the Yankees would want to face that if they had a choice.

Overall, this is a strong move for the Yankees, and a solid opening salvo to their offseason. There’s much left to do, but locking down their first base position allows for plenty of flexibility, keeps a talented left-handed power bat high in the order, and gives their bigger free agent priority a stronger base of talent to sign on to.

In the relatively short time that Rizzo has been a Yankee, he has made an impact on the fans and his teammates. He’s a vital veteran voice in a clubhouse looking to fight for a championship. His numbers last season were some of the best in his career, and the hope is that he can continue to shine under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.