You know, I wasn’t going to write this article. I figured the Anthony Rizzo ship had sailed, and he seemed both happy and productive in Yankee Stadium.
Then Gordon Wittenmyer upset that nice little proverbial applecart by writing this article, which posits the idea that perhaps a Cubs/Rizzo reunion might be a useful idea.
Many of you are convinced the Cubs should sign a first baseman, and yesterday we discussed the possibility of José Abreu switching sides of town.
Rizzo can opt out of his Yankees deal after this year. It has one year to go with a salary of $16 million for 2023, so the Cubs would have to better that, you’d think. Gordo writes that Rizzo was unhappy with Jed Hoyer’s five-year, $70 million offer prior to 2021, which actually would have lowered Rizzo’s salary from $16.5 million (2021) to an AAV of $14 million. Given what he got from the Yankees, he was right to reject that.
But also from Wittenmyer:
... if you’re talking a right-handed slugging first baseman whose power numbers were down in 2021 — who will be 36 on Opening Day — compared to a lefty slugging first baseman coming off a 32-homer season (albeit, at short-right-field Yankee Stadium) with a better glove, who just turned 33?
The first player listed there is Abreu. The second is Rizzo.
Much was made of Rizzo hitting homers only because of that right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. In the end, almost all of his home runs would have left most ballyards and his home/road splits in 2022 weren’t that extreme:
Home: .222/.348/.492 (56-for-252) with 19 home runs in 71 games
Road: .225/.325/.465 (48-for-213) with 13 home runs in 59 games
One thing Wittenmyer notes is the rule change restricting defensive shifts in 2023 and how that might benefit an extreme pull hitter like Rizzo:
Few hitters in the majors figure to benefit from that rule change than the lefty pull hitter, who has been right-side shifted more than 80 percent of his plate appearances and still put up a .338 on-base percentage this year (.366 career).
Does his batting average go up 15-20 points with the rules change alone? What’s that do to his OBP? What’s it do for the hitters around him in the lineup who, in turn, have more dangerous protection behind them or men on base more frequently ahead of them?
Here is Rizzo’s 2022 spray chart for all his batted balls:
That’s an awful lot of ground outs into the shift. Spreading out the fielders against him might help him. This article by Erin McGarvey from our SB Nation site Pinstripe Alley says it’s quite possible:
Anthony Rizzo could definitely see a bump in his average with the shift gone. According to Baseball Savant, Rizzo has been shifted against a whopping 83.8% of the time. He has the 13th-highest pull rate in MLB right now, and FanGraphs has him hitting .236 when shifted (discounting when he hits home runs in those situations and the defense is taken out of the situation entirely). If his back is healthy, he could see his average boosted next year.
Let’s set aside Rizzo’s popularity in Chicago and the fact that a reunion would be extremely popular with the fanbase. Is it worth it?
McGarvey’s article hints at one of the potential drawbacks:
If his back is healthy
Well, we’re pretty familiar with this problem, as it kept Rizzo out of quite a few games as a Cub, in addition to this year. That’s not going to get any better going forward. He hasn’t played in 150+ games since 2018. On the other hand, similar to Abreu, Rizzo could DH at times for the Cubs, and that might help keep his back healthier. This year, Rizzo started 115 games at first base, only nine at DH.
If Rizzo opts out, it would likely take at least $18 million AAV to bring him back to Chicago. Perhaps that contract could be structured with incentives for games played or plate appearances. It’d likely have to be at least a two-year deal, possibly three, so we’re talking maybe three years/$55 million, or two years/$36 million with a $18 million vesting option and a $8 million buyout.
I’m going to say, much as I like Rizzo and he’d fit certain things the Cubs are missing, I don’t think I’d do this.
But maybe you would. Have at it.
If Anthony Rizzo opts out of his Yankees deal...
This poll is closed
... the Cubs should sign him to a contract like the one proposed in the article
... the Cubs should sign him, but it will cost more than the proposal in the article
... the Cubs should not sign him
Something else (leave in comments)