New York Yankees fans better PRAY Anthony Rizzo loves Central Park as much as some of you think he does, because if this free agency scenario transpires, there will be absolutely zero reason to watch baseball in 2023.
The Yankees are already in danger of losing Rizzo, who opted out of his deal for 2023 and received the qualifying offer. It’s been widely speculated and assumed Rizzo may not return to the Bronx, especially if Aaron Judge leaves.
In that case, the Yankees better hope for one of two things. They need Judge to stay and they can’t have another contender swoop in to out-bid them for Rizzo as they wait on Judge’s decision.
If they wait too long, it’s possible the Houston Astros make their reported desired move. Now, would Rizzo actually go there? It seems doubtful, but it’d also be irresponsible to rule that out without any evidence other than Rizzo seeming like he possesses high character.
The latest free agency rumors have linked Houston to Rizzo likely due to the fact the defending World Series champs are losing both Yuli Gurriel and Trey Mancini. In fact, he’s their reported No. 1 target to play first base next year.
Here’s what Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote in his latest insider column. Agent-generated rumor to drive up the Yankees’ price? You decide!
"“The Astros have identified Anthony Rizzo as their No. 1 free-agent target at first base. They also are considering Yuli Gurriel and José Abreu, but signing Rizzo would serve the dual purpose of bolstering their own roster while weakening the Yankees’.”"
Thankfully, Rosenthal then talked about why it might be smart for Rizzo to stay in New York for at least one more season.
"“Rizzo, 33, faces an interesting decision on whether to return to the Yankees. If he accepts the team’s qualifying offer, he would earn a higher one-year salary than he might receive in a multi-year deal. He then could spend another season hitting at Yankee Stadium, while also benefitting from the new shift restrictions, and re-enter the market without a qualifying offer. A player cannot receive one twice.”"
Here’s a positive sign, though — Rosenthal noted the Yankees could play that game too and swipe Verlander from the Astros.
The downside? The Yankees probably aren’t going to sign Verlander, because they have far too many other needs to address before they even dream of considering the future Hall of Famer.
Nonetheless, the mere mention of Rizzo to the Astros just shows how badly Houston has the mental edge over New York. Even off the field, they’re tormenting them with offseason buzz, stealing their targets in free agency and on the trade market, and patching up losses of Carlos Correa’s magnitude with rookies who win the World Series MVP.
Even with this scenario being unlikely, the Astros putting it in the back of the Yankees’ mind was the next best thing they could do to throw the Bombers’ offseason plans off course. And we’d venture to bet it’ll play a role, considering the Yankees are never proactive and never act with urgency.