Nothing says “Respect me!” like playing a (mostly) full season with the benefit of short porches in New York, Boston, and Tampa. Anthony Rizzo batted just .224 with a .338 OBP, but his 32 homers led to a career-high .256 ISO for a team that played under the national spotlight before being unceremoniously drummed from the postseason. That’s why, as Jim Bowden reported for The Athletic, Rizzo is expected to opt out of the second year of his Yankees contract that would have paid him $16 million.
The immediate thought is that a reunion with the Cubs now becomes a real possibility, especially with Rizzo’s old team searching for power and really needing more pop from the left side. As fun as that is from an emotional standpoint, though, I’m not sure how realistic it is. There was a little public sniping in the media when it came to whether or not the extension offers Jed Hoyer mentioned were ever really made, and Rizzo also talked about wanting to establish a new legacy.
You also have to consider the idea that the Cubs effectively low-balled their former star, even though he ended up getting much less in his Yankees deal. Opting out of the final half of what was a two-year, $32 million contract indicates that Rizzo is looking for a good deal more in overall money if not AAV as well. For the Cubs, it might be a question of exactly what they’re looking for in a hitter.
The reports of interest in José Abreu make sense because he’d balance the lefty-batting Matt Mervis at first base or DH while providing more of a contact-based approach. Abreu is still among the best in the league at making hard contact even if his power numbers have dropped, plus his strikeouts were way down. He’ll be 36 in December, but his health has never been an issue.
Rizzo is obviously a left-handed batter whose power numbers bounced back last season, but his .265 career batting average has been brought down by marks of .222, .248, and .224 the last three years. The 33-year-old also dealt with back issues throughout his career, though the ability to DH eases his physical burden a little bit at this point. His glove, once a calling card, is still solid even if it hasn’t been elite in recent years.
While this isn’t necessarily an either/or decision, it gives the Cubs another option to weigh as they look at how they can become competitive again in a hurry. Rizzo would certainly help bring fans back to Wrigley by restoring some of the goodwill that’s been pissed away over the last few years, plus he’d be a great mentor for Mervis as the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year acclimates to the next level.
This is another fun storyline to follow once the World Series wraps up.