The Padres’ trade deadline explorations included some talks with the Cubs about first baseman Anthony Rizzo, The Athletic’s Dennis Lin writes as part of a reader mailbag. It isn’t known how far negotiations might have developed between the two sides, and the Cubs eventually ended up moving Rizzo to the Yankees in another deal.
With Rizzo now set to enter the free agent market, it stands to reason that the Padres might still have interest in the veteran, especially since the power is a continued need for the team. While Rizzo’s slugging percentage over the last two seasons is a modest .432 (a significant dropoff from his .513 SLG with the Cubs from 2014-19), the first baseman did hit 22 home runs last year. Rizzo’s power numbers were also markedly better than those of Eric Hosmer, the Padres’ incumbent first baseman.
It’s probably safe to assume that the Padres’ inability to move Hosmer at the deadline contributed to the lack of movement on a potential Rizzo trade. San Diego was reportedly looking into ways to move Hosmer earlier this year, and Lin figures the team will again try to unload Hosmer and/or Wil Myers to alleviate their payroll and luxury tax burdens. Hosmer is still owed $59MM from 2022-25, with a luxury tax number of $18MM based on the annual average value of Hosmer’s original eight-year, $144MM contract.
Even if National League teams have the DH as an extra lineup spot to work with in 2022, Hosmer stands as the largest obstacle to Rizzo or any other first base addition, barring a trade. Since Hosmer has provided barely more than replacement-level production (0.5 total fWAR) over the last four seasons, Rizzo would provide an upgrade, even if Rizzo’s own production has taken a step back over the last two seasons.
Rizzo hit .240/.343/.432 with 33 homers in 819 PA since the start of the 2020 season, good for an above-average but unspectacular 109 wRC+. His hard-hit ball numbers have also been on the decline over the last two seasons, and his nine percent walk rate in 2021 was his lowest since 2012. On the plus side, Rizzo has continued to be one of the game’s tougher hitters to strike out, which would naturally appeal to a Padres team that prizes contact — San Diego has the fourth-lowest strikeout rate of any team in baseball over the last two years.
There’s certainly still enough in Rizzo’s recent track record to merit a multi-year contract in free agency, and the 32-year-old is likely to land a healthy eight-figure salary. While Rizzo wouldn’t necessarily represent huge savings in terms of pure dollars over Hosmer’s deal, the luxury tax savings may make it particularly worthwhile for the Padres. Rizzo also isn’t attached to any draft pick compensation, since his midseason trade makes him ineligible for the qualifying offer.
If Rizzo did happen to wind up back in San Diego, it would represent something of a full circle move after he began his MLB career with the Padres back in 2011. Initially a Red Sox draft pick, Rizzo was dealt to the Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez blockbuster in December 2010, and played only one season in San Diego before the Friars shipped him to the Cubs in January 2012. From there, Rizzo ended up becoming a Wrigleyville icon, hitting .272/.372/.489 over parts of 10 seasons in Chicago and playing a major role in the team’s 2016 World Series title.
With power bats standing out as such a need for the Padres, Rizzo might not be the only former trade target who could again emerge on the team’s radar. San Diego also had interest in acquiring Nelson Cruz and Joey Gallo before the two sluggers were respectively dealt to the Rays and Yankees, and Lin believes the Friars might look into either signing Cruz as a free agent (probably again depending on the status of the universal DH) or perhaps working out a Gallo trade with New York.