A second move was sure to fall after the Yankees swung a significant deal for Josh Donaldson earlier in the week, and Tuesday night it came as the clock neared midnight. The Yankees are bringing back Anthony Rizzo, re-signing him to a two-year, $32 million deal that contains an opt-out after the first year.
It’s clear now that the Yankees have prioritized a short-term view with their roster construction this offseason, targeting a stopgap at shortstop in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, adding a bopper with short-term contract coverage in Josh Donaldson, and now signing Rizzo while flashier options were on the table. Notably, the team watched as Matt Olson was dealt from the Athletics to the Braves (for a certainly solid but not unbeatable package of prospects) and Freddie Freeman continues to court suitors — including competitors in their own division.
To his credit, Rizzo was a solid contributor in his half-season in the Bronx last year. He posted a .249/.340/.428 slash line with 8 home runs in 200 plate appearances, good for a 113 wRC+ that was roughly identical to his first-half performance in Chicago.
Steamer projects Rizzo to be slightly better than that in 2022, eyeing a 122 wRC+ and 2.5 fWAR out of the 32-year-old — above-average production that you’d certainly take as a baseline, and since the deal is so short, it’s unlikely that the team will deal with Rizzo’s true decline just yet. He’s also a decent defensive option, something that the Yankees have clearly grown more conscious of with their recent re-shuffling of the roster.
The issue is just how much more the Yankees could’ve gotten if they were willing to go the extra mile. Freeman and Olson are clearly more valuable to a championship-contending team, which is what the Yankees want to be rather than are at the moment, from both an offensive and defensive perspective. Olson is a much younger alternative who would’ve been worth investing and possibly extending (as the Braves did), even if the price tag comes with prospects as well as cash, and unless Freeman winds up with a deal in excess of six or seven years, it’s safe to say that he’ll be an easy pickup for whoever signs him.
Instead, the Yankees went with the least risk possible. They secured an upgrade over Luke Voit — whose elite bat is handicapped by his inability to stay on the field, and will likely be traded in the coming weeks — on a short-term deal that doesn’t lock them into an aging veteran for too long, and likely spent the last of the money available for significant additions this offseason. Rizzo and Donaldson’s money can come off the books quickly should their retooled roster turn out to be a dud, and we can play musical chairs with who the organization wants all over again.
The core of the roster is mostly the same as the one that we’ve seen for the past few seasons. This is a surefire postseason roster, and should contend for the division title — though it’ll be a busy September with four teams all expected to be in the hunt. Beyond that, however, is far from guaranteed. That didn’t have to be the case, but the Yankees have made their priorities clear, and now it’s put up or shut up time.