Yankees Re-Up With Anthony Rizzo on Two-Year Contract

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

As stars are being signed and traded, the Yankees went the low-key route on Tuesday, re-signing first baseman Anthony Rizzo to a two-year deal worth $32 million. Rizzo, who turns 33 in August, hit .249/.320/.428 with eight homers in 49 games after coming to New York from the Cubs in a three-player trade at the deadline.

Last year was Rizzo’s comeback season from a down 2020, but his bounce wasn’t as significant as that of his then-teammates Javier Báez and Kris Bryant. Part of it is due to his disappointing year being less of a disaster, but Rizzo was also the oldest of that trio. Signing a seven-year, $41 million contract while still in his pre-arbitration years gave him a guaranteed income, but the deal worked out better for the Cubs in the end, as he only now hits free agency for the first time. If he had been a free agent after 2018, ZiPS projects he would have made $101 million over the last four seasons rather than the approximately $42 million he earned. For how much you’d expect him to get paid in 2022, this seems like an opportune moment to crank out the projection:

ZiPS Projection – Anthony Rizzo
2022 .260 .362 .461 469 69 122 21 2 23 75 56 6 123 2 2.6
2023 .255 .357 .445 440 63 112 20 2 20 68 52 5 118 1 2.1

ZiPS projects a two-year, $35 million contract or a three-year, $47 million one, so $32 million over two years seems about in line with at least this computer’s expectations. This actually represents a bit of a performance uptick; one of my biggest sources of negative feedback from projections this cycle was Rizzo’s overall triple-slash being in the neighborhood of Giancarlo Stanton’s. Much of that is due to Yankee Stadium, one of the best stadiums for him in the projections, thanks to being a friendly home for lefty sluggers. Steamer is likely picking up on this as well, as it also gives Rizzo a similar boost over his 2021 line in New York.

ZiPS projects about a $6 million benefit for Rizzo, a little less than half a win per year, by playing in Yankee Stadium instead of a neutral park. He also snags an opt-out clause he can exercise after the 2022 season; ZiPS gives him a 31% chance of opting out as being worthwhile, bumping the overall valuation of the deal by $2 million.

Now, one can note that Rizzo only hit .232/.330/.354 in games at Yankee Stadium, but individualized park lines don’t really have much in the way of predictive value for hitters. A player’s actual home/road splits don’t become as predictive as splits generated from using generalized park factors (with lefty/righty numbers) until you actually have a decade worth of those splits. This phenomenon is especially dangerous when analyzing players in extreme parks. Trevor Story’s home/road splits are larger than you would expect from a player at Coors Field, but that doesn’t mean his outlook is worse when he leaves Coors; the generic factors are still far more predictive. I experienced this trap first-hand with Dante Bichette way back when, assuming that his lines after leaving Colorado would look more like his road splits than his standard park-adjusted stats. I was wrong, and this was my initial impetus for examining this specific issue.

The valuation of Rizzo and his fit for the team seem right on point. Where the contract is a little awkward is the limbo in which Luke Voit now resides. Voit was a late bloomer, so he is nearly as old as Rizzo, but all he’s done in New York has hit. In just over 1,100 plate appearances for the Yankees, or about two full seasons worth of playing time, he’s put up a .271/.363/.520 line for a 137 wRC+ to go along with 68 homers. ZiPS projects a 119 wRC+ for Voit, though with considerably worse defense than Rizzo, something which wasn’t helped by the torn meniscus he suffered last spring. And with Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge entrenched in the outfield corners, New York has no motivation to play Stanton, its primary DH, in the field all that often, leaving no room for Voit. (That is, unless Judge is suddenly unavailable for 70 games, costing him a free-agency year.) Like his teammate DJ LeMahieu, Voit is a 2020 star without a clear role on the team. He may be the designated hitter for a National League team by the time you read this!

Already over the first two CBT thresholds, this may be the last big move the Yankees make this spring. These are Hal’s Yankees, not George’s, and I suspect that the presence of two terrific shortstop prospects in Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza and the acquisition of Isiah Kiner-Falefa signal the unofficial death of any chance the Yankees bring in either Story or Carlos Correa. The Yankees project as a serious contender, both for the playoffs generally and the AL East divisionally, but they’re merely one of four strong contenders in the division, and while Rizzo is a fair signing at a fair price, he’s not the type of player who would make them a clear favorite.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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2 years ago

Appreciate the write-up Dan. Now go try and get a nap in before the next major transaction happens.