This Rockies trade could creatively solve Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo issues

New York Yankees v San Diego Padres
New York Yankees v San Diego Padres / Orlando Ramirez/GettyImages

The Yankees, sporting a record that's tough to nitpick, are already encountering some Anthony Rizzo awkwardness that's sure to grow, whether the team succeeds or sputters.

While the team's core offensive pieces around Rizzo are all surging, the Yankees' first baseman often appears overmatched, on both fastballs and grounders of varying speeds. By October, Rizzo might awaken, but he also might be the type of liability who holds the Bombers back from what otherwise might be a special run. But how do you justify upsetting the apple cart and replacing him right now? Calling up a rookie like Ben Rice or TJ Rumfield might be next year's solution, but it would seem daring and downright foolish to send a clubhouse favorite to the corner in favor of a mid-tier prospect midway through a 41-19 run.

The Yankees need to think about team chemistry as much as on-field performance as 2024 drags on, an exceedingly difficult thing to balance (though a slightly easier task when the overall record is this sterling). Rizzo has a longer runway than the end of May, but as the trade deadline approaches, the conversation might get louder without clear signs of improvement. DJ LeMahieu can provide part-time relief, but moving him to first base more often creates another hole at third; Oswaldo Cabrera probably isn't enough to justify a shift.

What if, instead of targeting a first baseman to supplant Rizzo, the Yankees added a versatile player with third base experience who could send LeMahieu to first more often and get Rizzo off his feet, while not serving as a one-for-one replacement? What if the very same player could slot into the outfield on occasion and send Aaron Judge/Juan Soto to the occasional DH half-day? Enter Ryan McMahon of the Rockies, likely on the verge of his first All-Star season.

How available is McMahon? It'll probably take plenty to pry him away from Colorado, but he also showed up in one of the first official trade rumors of Summer 2024, so you tell us. Rockies sources are denying their intention to tear this particular piece down. Again, we'll believe it when we see it.

Yankees could give Anthony Rizzo rest by plugging third base hole, not first base spot

The Yankees should handle Rizzo's shifts with kid gloves. The veteran slugger has earned the benefit of the doubt, and the Yankees, as a whole, have earned the right not to make snap judgments with their sterling performance.

McMahon, under control through 2027 at a reasonable cost (a six-year, $70 million extension kicked in during the 2022 season), could fill a long-term hole while not so subtly allowing the Yankees to take Rizzo off his feet this year (again, without trading for a one-for-one replacement). McMahon's 10 homers, .286 average, and 134 OPS+ represent his offense finally starting to catch up with his always exemplary defense.

At the very least, the Yankees already need to be thinking about potential defensive replacements for Rizzo in the late innings of postseason play. Employing McMahon would allow them to deploy LeMahieu in that role rather than, say, Austin Wells or Insert Trent Grisham Replacement Here. The Yankees don't currently have a true backup first baseman on their bench, but they could make one by adding an All-Star third baseman to the mix.

A McMahon trade might be surprisingly expensive (though the Rockies have been fooled before), but the Yankees should be willing to sacrifice a top-100 name in Everson Pereira and a few intriguing pieces of their pitching depth to take a load off Rizzo's docket.