Anyone disillusioned with the player himself needs to reevaluate their viewpoint. Even in the biggest down year possible (COVID, switching teams), Rizzo posted an above-average offensive season with star-quality defense. He was the obvious third banana in the market this offseason, but he cleared the fourth option by leaps and bounds. Rizzo is still very, very good.
Regardless, he’s not Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson … but he was more similar than you’d think prior to the 2020 shortened season, when his reputation took a hit in a small sample size. Rizzo’s 139 OPS+ season at the age of 29 in 2019 is extremely commendable, and that player’s still within him — which is why he bet on himself last offseason and turned down the five-year, $70 million extension the Cubs offered him.
He didn’t want to tank in Chicago for nostalgia’s sake. He didn’t want to accept less than half the guarantees Freeman just received. And he didn’t want to sell himself short, even though his two-year, $32 million Yankee deal doesn’t deviate significantly from those figures.
According to Ken Rosenthal’s Tuesday notes column (subscription required), Rizzo doesn’t regret passing on longer-term security in Chicago.
His motivation, though, is to beat those $70 million projected earnings by any means possible — and that probably means dominating in 2022 and opting out of his Yankees contract to maximize his cash after just one season (and, psst, that’s probably why the Yankees structured his deal that way, too).
Will Anthony Rizzo be on Yankees after 2022 season?
As Rosenthal notes, Rizzo may have a prime opportunity to earn more security (and cash) elsewhere in 2023 and beyond if he performs well in 2022.
Entering next offseason, Rizzo will be 33, the Universal DH will be at his disposal, and he’ll be entering the market as the youngest free agent option at the position ahead of Brandon Belt and Jose Abreu.
No Freeman. No Olson. A strong season from Rizzo will all but guarantee an opt-out and reengagement with the rest of the league, something the Yankees were probably assuming when they finalized the deal.
Rizzo seemed like a consolation prize after his up-and-down 2021, but there’s a very good chance he thrives in New York and provides the consistency they’ve long searched for at first base. If so, he’ll likely be out for what’s his when the campaign ends — and there’s nothing wrong with that, from either side.