Thursday, May 26, 2022

MLB free agency: Yankees bring back Anthony Rizzo on two-year deal worth $32 million

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The New York Yankees are bringing back a familiar face to balance out their righty-heavy lineup. New York has agreed to a two-year contract worth $32 million with lefty-hitting, free-agent first baseman Anthony Rizzo, reports ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The deal includes an opt-out after the first year. The team confirmed the signing on Thursday.

Rizzo, 32, joined the Yankees in a deadline trade with the Chicago Cubs last season. He authored a .249/.340/.428 batting line with eight home runs in 49 games with New York, and hit .248/.344/.440 with 22 home runs on the season overall. No longer the hitter he was in his prime, Rizzo still provides tough at-bats and splendid first base defense.

The Yankees have had interest in Freddie Freeman throughout the offseason, though MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says they have a “clear impression” he did not prefer New York. Rizzo joins recent trade additions Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the club’s new-look lineup. Manager Aaron Boone’s regular batting order figures to look something like this:

  1. CF Aaron Hicks
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. 1B Anthony Rizzo
  4. DH Giancarlo Stanton
  5. LF Joey Gallo
  6. 3B Josh Donaldson
  7. 2B Gleyber Torres
  8. SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa
  9. C Kyle Higashioka/Ben Rortvedt

That puts DJ LeMahieu in a super-utility role, the role he was originally signed to fill three years ago. The Yankees also intend to play Stanton in the outfield more often this season, which will push Hicks to the bench and Judge to center field, opening at-bats for LeMahieu either at third base (with Donaldson at DH) or DH.

The Rizzo re-signing likely ends Luke Voit’s time with the Yankees. MLB‘s home run leader during the shortened 2020 season, Voit dealt with a series of knee injuries last season, prompting the Yankees to trade for Rizzo at the deadline. The universal DH opens up the trade market for Voit as several National League clubs still need to add one more bat.

It’s worth noting that New York City’s private employer mandate says unvaccinated Yankees (and Mets) players can not play home games. Rizzo was not vaccinated as of last season, though he could have gotten the jab over the winter. The smart money is on the Yankees looking into Rizzo’s vaccination status prior to re-signing him.

Last season the Yankees went 92-70 and were eliminated by the rival Boston Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game. They figure to again be in the thick of a tough AL East race in 2022.

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