The Yankees are expected to make a one-year, $19.65MM qualifying offer to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Qualifying offers are due Thursday of this week. Rizzo will then have 10 days to gauge interest around the league before determining whether to accept or decline his QO. If he accepts, he’ll be considered signed as a free agent (and thus unable to be traded until June 15, 2023, without his consent). If he rejects the QO, he’ll become a free agent but will be tied to draft pick compensation — meaning a new team would need to surrender a pick(s) in next summer’s draft in order to sign him.
For Rizzo, declining his $16MM player option was a straightforward decision, even if he hopes to remain in the Bronx. Declining the option put the onus on the team to make this offer — which represents a $3.65MM raise over what he’d have earned by exercising the player option. And, had the team unexpectedly opted not to put forth a QO, he’d surely have been able to earn more than the year and $16MM value of his player option as a free agent with no draft strings attached.
Similarly, it’s an obvious call for the Yankees to make. Rizzo hit .224/.338/.480 and tied a career-high 32 home runs in just 548 plate appearances with the Yankees this past season. That .224 average was obviously a fair bit south of the .243 leaguewide average, but Rizzo’s walk rate and power output were vastly better than that of your average big league hitter.
Rizzo also turned in a better-than-average 18.4% strikeout rate, and with some limitations on infield shifts looming in 2023, it stands to reason that Rizzo could see a few more grounders break through the right side of the infield to help him find a few more singles and boost that average next year. Based on Rizzo’s 2022 output, the Yankees would surely be content to have him accept and return at a slightly larger rate of pay.
Rizzo found a two-year, $32MM deal with an opt-out/player option in free agency this past offseason, and that was on the heels of a .248/.344/.440 campaign that was noticeably less productive than his 2022 season. Granted, he’ll now have a QO with which to contend and is a year older, but he could still parlay the offer into a new two-year deal with the Yanks that could perhaps clock in below the QO rate but at or slightly above the $16MM he’d have otherwise earned.
Teams could very well be reluctant to part with a draft pick (or picks) in order to sign a first baseman to a contract beginning with his age-33 season, but the previously mentioned 10-day window will give Rizzo and his reps the chance to determine how receptive other teams might be to such an arrangement. At the very least, Rizzo’s decision to decline his $16MM player option has netted him the opportunity to lock in an additional $3.65MM in 2023.