Anthony Rizzo has become a surprisingly essential piece of the program the New York Yankees have built, returning twice now after spending two months in the Bronx post-deadline trade in 2021 (and you people said he wasn't happy here...).
Rizzo re-signed in New York last offseason on a player-friendly deal that allowed him the chance to opt out and cash in once more if he stayed healthy and dominated. Outside of a brutal back issue that left him bedridden after treatment, he mashed, hitting 32 bombs, posting a 131 OPS+ and adding countless intangibles ... and he still came back, for likely two more seasons and a small raise.
Unequivocally, Rizzo has landed in a perfect spot with the Yankees, and has to be glad Brian Cashman pulled the trigger midway through an otherwise-forgettable 2021 season. New York's roster would look much worse without Rizzo at the forefront, but ... should they ... have just signed him when 2021 wrapped rather than sacrifice prospect capital for him?
Because there's an outfield void in the Boogie Down, and Kevin Alcantara, the centerpiece of the Yankees-Cubs Rizzo trade, appears to be a budding problem.
Yankees Anthony Rizzo Trade Grades: Kevin Alcantara would be nice...
Alcantara is still the type of raw prospect a team like the Yankees trades 100 out of 100 times if they're on the cusp of contention. That said, he currently ranks No. 87 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects list and 91st on Baseball America's preseason ranking, and his tools are beginning to translate to the field. Last season, Alcantara hit 15 homers, drove in 85 runs, and slugged .451 in 112 games of A-Ball in Carolina.
Those numbers don't factor in his clear star quality, either; the panache is evident from every BP clip that emerges from Cubs camp. He'll be "one to watch" all spring long, as well as a buzzed-about name you'll hear all about, rubbing salt further into the found.
Oh, and you could also make the argument that the 2021 Yankees weren't on the "cusp of contention" at all, but were instead teetering on embarrassment all summer long. So there's that, too.
The full trade was simple: Rizzo for Alcantara and 24-year-old Alexander Vizcaíno, a pitching prospect who has since moved on. The pros are quite clear. The deal got Rizzo in the building, where he ultimately decided he'd rather stay long-term. Perhaps that never happens from a cold free agency meeting. The deal kept Rizzo away from the Red Sox, who were rumored to be in the running. And, yes, the deal showed the 2021 Yankees that Cashman still had faith in them, even if he didn't really.
All things considered, this remains a B+ trade at worst. Alcantara was the exact kind of lottery ticket the Yankees could afford to deal, and Rizzo remains with the team to this day and is intrinsic to its fabric.
But that doesn't make it hurt any less when a BP video like this gets circulated and a left field vacancy continues to fester long-term in the Bronx.