Not that it’s a surprise, but this week, a report from The Athletic revealed New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo is expected to opt out of his contract for the 2023 season. He holds a $16 million player option but is looking for one more shot at a multi-year payday.
Some Yankees fans are oddly not fazed by this. Some, in fact, are acting as if it’s a foregone conclusion Rizzo will return. It’s genuinely confusing why anybody would think that.
For starters, if Aaron Judge leaves in free agency, are the Yankees going to offer Rizzo a contract? Is Rizzo going to want to stay if the team is getting exponentially worse without its best player? Will he just want to follow Judge after being the slugger’s No. 1 advocate in 2022?
What if Judge returns? The Yankees are already at about ~$200 million guaranteed committed to the 2023 payroll. If Judge is back, that’s going to make it $230-$240 million. Assuming Rizzo gets a similar AAV on his next contract, that’ll take it to $246-$256 million.
The Yankees have so many other additions they need to make. If they’re going to have another self-imposed financial limit to avoid a certain luxury tax threshold, how can we even view Rizzo returning in any capacity an absolute certainty?
Maybe the Yankees blow past every tax threshold and make a statement. It’s possible. In that scenario, Rizzo certainly re-signs. But that’s the thing … this feels like the only scenario where Rizzo is definitely coming back.
Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo opting out of his contract is worse news than you’d expect
Per Jim Bowden of The Athletic, there’s a mutual interest in a reunion, which is the best news yet. However, Rizzo has had back issues in recent years. The Yankees already possess an aging, injury-prone lineup that’s headlined by Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, all of whom are almost completely untradeable.
Rizzo wanting to “test” free agency — also per the Bowden report — doesn’t bode well for the Yankees, either. If they’re stuck in a bidding war for Judge and Rizzo, you know who they’ll prioritize. If they miss out on Judge, it’s hard to believe they’ll be eager to pay an escalating price on the 33-year-old first baseman.
Rizzo’s been a really, really good Yankee. He’s among the fan favorites. Him bringing back his 32 home runs, 75 RBI, .817 OPS and 131 OPS+ for 2023 would be incredible. Nobody would be opposed to it. Fans want it to happen.
But it’s not in their control. New York fans are smart enough to know how this ownership/front office tandem operates. Perhaps those looking past that harsh reality need a bit of a refresher.