Anthony Rizzo is one of the higher-profile remaining unsigned free agents. The 32-year-old is a three-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner. Rizzo also claimed a Silver Slugger award during a 2016 season where he was a key member of the Cubs’ World Series winning squad, and he appeared on MVP balloting every year during his 2014-19 peak.
Yet Rizzo’s numbers have slipped from that middle-off-the-order form over the past two seasons. Since the start of 2020, he’s a .240/.343/.432 hitter. That offensive output is nine percentage points above the overall league average, by measure of wRC+, but it’s a bit below the leaguewide .254/.335/.455 line compiled by first basemen.
Coupled with his age (32), that recent dip in production at the plate makes Rizzo a particularly challenging free agent to value. Teams could view his downturn as a sign that his days as an impact bat are now behind him. Yet he still brings an enviable combination of bat-to-ball skills, impressive exit velocities and well-regarded defense. That’s before considering the intangible value teams might attribute to Rizzo, who was generally viewed as a key clubhouse leader on the Cubs’ playoff rosters.
Rizzo’s two most recent teams — the Cubs and Yankees — have each been mentioned as possible post-lockout suitors for a reunion. The Braves have considered him as a possible alternative if Freddie Freeman signs elsewhere. There haven’t been any other teams with substantive ties to the lefty hitter this offseason, but clubs like the Brewers, Guardians and Marlins could be speculative fits for a first base addition.
The free agent and trade markets for first basemen didn’t move much before the lockout. In addition to the unsigned Freeman and Rizzo, top trade possibilities like Matt Olson and Luke Voit could find themselves on the move. That supply of potentially available star first basemen complicates the situation further, particularly given the rapid transactions frenzy that’s expected to take place once the lockout wraps up.
There haven’t been any firm reports about what kind of deal Rizzo might be targeting this winter. He rejected a five-year, $70MM extension offer from the Cubs during Spring Training. Yet topping that number now — even with the prospect of all 30 teams pursuing him — seems unlikely given his fine but unspectacular 2021 performance. At the start of the winter, MLBTR projected Rizzo to receive a three-year, $45MM guarantee.
What does the MLBTR readership think? For how much will Rizzo sign after the transactions freeze?
(poll links for app users)
John Rocker fan club
2 years with an option for a 3rd with total value around 45mil if the option is exercised.
Depends on the team but that’s reasonable. If Yankees I could see 2/$36. If the Cubbies get him I could see 3/$45. I also could see some incentive-laden deal given his back issues. I had 3 years / $40-$50 MM
Yankees would be crazy to sign him, but it would fit in well with their post-2000 tradition of signing has-beens who contribute virtually nothing to the team. anthony rizzo is a 1-2 WAR level player at this point.
John Rocker fan club
A platoon with Voit at 1b wouldn’t be bad if Voit is still on the club come opening day. But seems like a roster crunch to have 2 1b. I thibk the dh spot should rotate around Stanton and Judge to keep them both fresh and allow them to play the field.
It would be bad because rizzo’s best possible performance going forward is slightly above average. More likely is completely average. And he could easily decline further, and he could easily be flat out bad. No reason to sign him at all.
John Rocker: My assumption is that the Yankees will trade Voit and acquire a 1B (Rizzo/Olson…Freeman (lol)). Either way, they essentially disowned Voit, so I think they will cover that position adequately (and only that position).
Clipper, the Yankees will address the SS position. Just not in a way any of us will be happy about.
Fan of… You have no reason to be that ‘sure’. He’s a total pro with a ton of postseason experience, a LH power bat and outside of legit injury concerns, could be a nice 1st base/DH for a transitioning team like the Cubs..
Ducky Buckin Fent
@Mendoza line (Pirates guy) sold me on Josh Bell as a 1B whom is available & not near the prospect cost of Olson. Just to throw another option into the mix.
But I agree, Clip. I think Yanks moving on from Luke Voit. Now, I’m still recovering from last year’s offensive ineptitude. So, I would be really tempted to add a LH bat or switch hitter over at first, & trying to shoehorn Voit into some AB’s simultaneously. Did it with Encarnacion so it’s not unprecedented. That was with this core too.
Something to think about.
While I don’t think Rizzo will ever be as good as he once was, it’s silly to say his “best possible performance going forward is slightly above average.” No one can say that definitively.
Since you cited WAR above, saying he’s “a 1-2 WAR player at this point,” let’s see what projection systems say.
The seven projection systems at FanGraphs project a 2.0-2.8 WAR 2022 campaign for Rizzo. Yes, that falls reasonably well into your “slightly above average” description. However, those WAR values are his 50% percentile numbers. If he hits his 70%, 80%, or 90% projection, he’ll be well above average.
Yes, those odds are small, but that’s the point. They represent “best possible performance” better than your dismissive evaluation.
Please, Hammer. Don't hurt 'em.
I wouldn’t want to give Rizzo anything more than a 1-year prove it deal. First base is supposed to be a position for players with a huge bat. Rizzo is certainly good enough to play there now but I wouldn’t want to be locked into him for even 2 years. Chances are a lot of contending teams will be able to find a much better hitting first baseman very soon. I know playing first base is “incredibly hard” but it’s still easier than most other positions. Teams will be able to convert better hitting players to first base if they have to. I imagine, 2nd, 3rd, SS, OF and Catcher are all harder to play than first base so if a guy can learn to play those positions they can usually learn to play first. It’s not hard to find a better hitter than Rizzo so you wouldn’t want him blocking another guy at first for more than 1 season. If Freeman and Olson are off the board, I would rather try to convert Bryant to first base over signing Rizzo. Even Schwarber, Castellanos and Story could probably do OK enough at first and they are all better hitters than Rizzo. Rizzo is one of the least impressive starting position players in the free agent market this offseason. I might even rather roll the dice on someone like Conforto and move him to first before I would sign Rizzo. It wouldn’t be ideal but at least Conforto has higher upside. I understand some team should sign Rizzo and plan in him being their starting first baseman next season but it should only be for next season with hope that someone better comes along by 2023.
i got 1, under 20
Please, Hammer. Don't hurt 'em.
I voted the same way, Tim. A 1 year $15 million deal should be plenty for a first baseman who can’t even hit for an OPS of .780. First base should be one of the team leaders in OPS. Well above .800 and closer to .900 is what teams should expect out of first base. He hits like a shortstop but can only play first base. Not very valuable IMO.
#1 song on Rizzo’s playlist: “If I could turn back time” by Cher. There’s no way he comes close to that Cubs offer of 5/$70M now.
A tough contract to write up, does his WAR calculation include the increased potential to cause teammates to miss time due to COVID infection?
Ducky Buckin Fent
I’ve a hard time picturing Anthony Rizzo bumping some Cher, bro.
Maybe the Dropkick Murphy’s will do a cover of it instead of Cher’s version.
Why? His walk up music used to be Taylor swift
Ducky Buckin Fent
I rest my case.
As a Yankee fan and seeing him everyday, sry but not a huge fan… not what he was 3 years ago, not worth the $
2 yr/20M. He’s not washed up but he’s not worth the money he’s asking for
I’ll go 3/39. If Brandon Belt who is a similar age and has been much better the past few years is taking the qualifying offer at 1/18M, Rizzo will see a lower aav on a multi-year deal or a similar offer if he is cool with a 1 year deal unless some dumb owner/GM gets swayed by intangibles. If he goes shorter than that 2/30 and 1/18 feel like the sweet spots.
10 years @ 100MM/year..
Problem with Rizzo is that at this point his name recognition outweighs his actual contribution.
$5-$7 million on a one year prove it deal. Too many similar first basemen out there.
@jagonza – I think he’d retire before signing for 1 year at 5-7mil. Someone will guarantee him 3 years, i bet. Even if his production is down, Rizzo is still a great veteran leader….an asset the Cubs could certainly use now. Crazy to think that Ian Happ is currently the longest tenured Cub.
Why would he retire instead of taking $7MM?
I think both Contreras (16) and Hendricks (14) have been with the Cubs longer than Happ (17)
i mean, I think Kyle Higashoika is the longest tenured member in the Yankees organization. that doesn’t mean much really.
Ian Happ is NOT the longest tenured Cub! Have ever heard of Jason Heyward? Willson Contreras? Kyle Hendricks?
3 yrs/$45M for Rizzo.
The contract size question would be better stated as AAV. If you believe he’ll get 4 years, of course you’ll think he’s getting more than those who said he’d sign for 1.
Two years/ 20 million guaranteed.
20 years/3 billion
Ducky Buckin Fent
Lot of shade being thrown at Mrs Rizzo’s boy.
Dude put up a .783 OPS & 6 OAA in ’21. Now I agree that his days as an MVP candidate are a thing of the past. But Anthony Rizzo is a still a nice complimentary player, man.
Agreed ducky. Plus he would cost half of the AAV compared to Freeman, and half as many years, even though both are the same age.
if there is an NL DH I would expect CHC to be his destination. 1-2 years, maybe $15 per.
If he’s taking less than the 5/$70mm that he turned down earlier, I have to believe the Cubs are the least likely team he will be accepting it from.
Sorry but Rizzo value is his defense. There is zero chance you’re taking him as a DH.
Seems like his value is between $13M and $18M a season and he’s gonna get between 2 and 3 years, but definitely not 4 years. So I’d just split all the differences:
3 years/$46.5M, up to 4 years/$60M is my final prediction. I think it’ll be a sandwich value. So like $14.25M, $18M, $13.25M w/ a $1M buyout on a $14.5M option.
And I don’t think the Yankees sign him. Not sure who else will actually sign him, but it won’t be the Yankees. He’s the exact kind of player and it’s the exact kind of deal that’s shot them in the foot the last 15-20 years that they’re learning to avoid.
This isn’t 1995. No one cares what he did 6 years ago. 1 year/$8 million with a team option.
I see $42M/3. Still a decent+ player, but who would pay him? Like I always ask, you need a team with an opening at 1st, that can afford a ~ $15M player, and have no competing needs.
Nobody meets those criteria, except maybe Atlanta if they don’t sign Freeman.
Rizzo is close to done…
2 years with an option for a 3rd year. 40-50 million in total value. Rizzo will play 2-3 more seasons and then retire
Sub. 800 OPS bat, minimal range in the field. Even 2/25 seems like an overpay.