Want to get a New York Yankees fan talking? Push past the shortstop conversation and ask them which first baseman they prefer for 2022.
Unless they say “DJ LeMahieu,” odds are you’re about to have a fruitful discussion with pros, cons, peaks, valleys, and a few tears shed along the way.
It’s no longer reductive to say there are only three viable options for the Yankees at first base next season. Sure, Luke Voit’s still on the roster, but Brian Cashman mentally traded him the second last year’s deadline wrapped. He won’t be starting the 2022 season on the roster, unless some cost-cutting measure has won out. In that case, some fences will have to be seriously mended.
Beyond Voit — and we can’t stress this enough — there is no depth on the roster. None. Chris Gittens has signed in Japan. Behind Voit, on the 40-man roster, sit LeMahieu and Miguel Andújar, who is absolutely not a first baseman/remains one non-tender whim away from seeking employment elsewhere next season. We love King Louis, but if he’s not starting with the full faith of the Yankees’ staff suddenly behind him, no one here should be.
One costs nothing but a little bit of money, one costs quite a bit of it, and one costs prospects alone, which Brian Cashman has been treating like money for several years now. Always reticent to sell high, never hesitant to DFA at their absolute lowest point.
So, factoring in quite a lot here, we’ve ordered the trio as they best suit the Yankees, both in 2022 and beyond. It might need to be said, though, for the tweens in the back: none of these three would be a “disaster.” We have heard that word thrown around a lot lately, and it’s a catastrophic miscalculation. If you believe any one of these would be horrific beyond compare, best of luck buying low on Nate Lowe and getting worse.
These are the three. We’d take any one of them, but … two stand out.
Power ranking the Yankees’ 3 top first baseman options for 2022.
3. Anthony Rizzo
A clear No. 3 but, again, a valuable slugger with championship pedigree who you’d be able to secure for his age 32-34 seasons. This isn’t Justin Verlander. This is a post-30 star commanding middle dollar (not top dollar) whose “regression” that you all fervently see coming is based only on 2021’s final numbers.
Which, it should be said, were still above-average (111 OPS+) with a COVID absence disrupting his Yankee tenure and several clutch moments baked in (he got the party started against Robbie Ray, remember?).
Now, Rizzo’s back flare-ups are a legitimate worry. You don’t have to crawl too far down the Yankees’ first base pipeline to spy a star first baseman whose captaincy was ruined by that pesky issue. He’s going to cost significantly less than the other two options, though, and his theoretical three-year, $45 million contract should definitely be absorb-able if things go unfortunately haywire.
Rizzo’s also in a difficult place. Everyone knows he’s the Yankees’ fallback option — unless they came to a mutual agreement we haven’t heard about yet. For all intents and purposes, both parties loved his short time here. In all honesty, do we know who else is chasing him? Do the Yankees risk him signing with, for example, Boston as a Triston Casas mentor when the lockout ends, or is this just all a sad little waiting game that ends with a one-year deal on March 29?
Objectively, the Yankees should exhaust all avenues with Nos. 1 and 2 before coming to an agreement with Rizzo; those men are peaking, and while Rizzo’s regression can be debated (139 OPS+ in 2019!), he’s certainly not turning a corner into a new rebirth. It’s sad to think of a bonafide All-Star waiting by the phone to see if the Yankees struck out on their top choices, though, so we hope this situation is resolved quickly — either with a small Rizzo deal, or a bombastic trade/signing that sets Rizzo free.