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A different look at the Anthony Rizzo signing

Anthony Rizzo was a low-risk signing, and he’s paid off big time already.

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The big market franchises have many advantages in the world of Major League Baseball, that’s simply a fact and can’t be refuted. However, that hardly guarantees success, and without the right people behind the decision-making process, it can all go south pretty quickly. It goes beyond the megadeals — finding the right complementary pieces to the roster is essential.

One of those advantages is to operate on a different playing field. The ability to make signings that would mean something else for a mid-market team or a small market one.

Take, for instance, the Dodgers signing Justin Turner to a two-year, $36 million deal before 2021, and the Yankees signing Anthony Rizzo to a two-year, $32 million deal this past offseason. These two signings both have options built in, so it’s not a given that they’ll stay on these deals as is, but they’ve both become emblematic of how top-tier spenders can find massive value in hedging their bets on short-term veteran deals.

Both the Dodgers and Yankees are able to invest what for the majority of other clubs would be a significant part of their budget in deals for quote-unquote complementary pieces. The signing of Anthony Rizzo has a nice parallel with the Turner signing that occurred just a year prior. Between the flexibility of Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, and others, the Dodgers could’ve been fine with letting Turner walk. The Yankees had the same opportunity with Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu on the roster.

However, beyond the productions of both Turner and Rizzo that each organization got, and the stability of both players that hardly ever miss time due to injury, both teams were able to be all the more flexible with other pieces already on the roster.

The Dodgers got to play Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez all over the place while the latter was on the roster. Max Muncy developed into one of the better defensive first basemen in the league and moved to 2B/3B without a hitch after the Freeman signing. The Yankees were able to move DJ LeMahieu around taking full advantage of his defensive flexibility, and with the return of Aaron Hicks and a somewhat crowded outfield, the decision was made to deal Luke Voit to open up DH at-bats.

To trade Voit when the Yankees did, it was clear that the return would be thin — Voit wasn’t at his best in 2021, and there were question marks about his ability to stay healthy. There are reasons to question that trade, as the best Voit could give the Yankees at least the same level of 1B/DH production that they’re getting right now but without the same financial commitment. However, the best-case scenario and the reality each ball club will have to deal with and navigate through are two different things.

In a short period of the 2022 season, Rizzo’s signing is already paying dividends. The first baseman is putting up the best numbers he has in several years while also not missing a single one of the Yankees’ first 38 games. Luke Voit, on the other hand, has already missed time for the Padres this season with a biceps issue.

Now, what will happen down the line is a mystery, and any player is susceptible to injuries, but Rizzo was always the safer play, and so far he’s shown that on the field. The Yankees lineup was always going to mash with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton leading the charge — what it needed was consistent production from its complementary pieces. In the worst-case scenario, Rizzo will give the lineup just that.