There’s no baseball being played, but the Yankees are still being haunted by the Houston Astros. As if losing to them in three straight ALCS matchups wasn’t already enough, the 2022 World Champs have free-agent first baseman Anthony Rizzo at the top of their wishlist.
That bit of news came from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, and it just feels wrong if you’re a Yankee fan. Houston already embarrassed New York by sweeping them out of the playoffs last month. Rizzo opted out of his contract and was given a qualifying offer by the Yankees. However, there’s an expectation that the veteran first baseman would be staying in the Bronx on a new deal.
Or will he? Are the Astros just toying with the Yankees? It’s possible. Here are three reasons why Houston could be interested in employing Anthony Rizzo.
Astros’ obvious need at first base
Houston has proven to be one of baseball’s most complete teams since winning the World Series in 2017. They’ve had star players come and go — like George Springer and Carlos Correa — but they always find a way to get the job done.
Yuli Gurriel has mostly manned first base for the Astros since he landed with the organization in 2016. This past season was his age-38 campaign and it was his worst since becoming a big leaguer. He slashed .242/.288/.360 with an 85 wRC+ in 584 plate appearances. His -0.9 fWAR was a career-worst mark, and it was a stark contrast to the 3.3 he posted in 2021.
The Astros are still “considering” Gurriel, according to Rosenthal. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to look around a bit. Upon peeking at the first base free-agent market, Rizzo is obviously among the top options available. Josh Bell would be an interesting fit, and Jose Abreu is rumored to be on Houston’s priority list, too.
Any way you slice it, though, the Astros need a first baseman for 2023 and will probably sign someone this winter.
This would weaken Yankees in multiple ways
The Yankees are clearly interested in retaining Rizzo on a new contract. Having him sign elsewhere would obviously weaken New York and force the Bombers to consider non-preferred alternatives. That, plus having to face him while suiting up for a hated rival is the worst kind of double whammy.
Rizzo’s clubhouse leadership would be sorely missed in the Yankees’ clubhouse. WFAN’s Sweeney Murti pointed out that nobody on New York’s current roster has won a World Series. Rizzo, of course, won a ring with the Chicago Cubs in 2016.
But are the Yankees also interested in re-signing the veteran first baseman because it’d be another selling point to Aaron Judge? We know it’s something the San Francisco Giants are rumored to be considering in their own pursuit of the outfielder.
You’d have to think this is a consideration for the Astros, too. They’d probably love nothing more than to not only take Rizzo from the Yankees but also watch it be a stumbling block in New York’s chances of retaining the AL single-season home run record holder.
It just drives up Rizzo’s asking price
Maybe the Astros are interested in signing Rizzo, but he’s not really at the top of their list. It’s possible this news is leaking just to make the Yankees work a little harder and pay a little more than they want to make it happen.
Or, as Brett Taylor mentioned, maybe it was Rizzo’s camp that let this news surface to aid them in negotiations with the Yankees.
Does Rizzo actually leave the Bronx for another team in 2023? It still feels unlikely to happen. But as we’ve said multiple times already this offseason, anything can happen in free agency. Interested teams wine and dine players in a certain way that convinces them to head elsewhere.
We’ll soon find out if that’s the case with Rizzo, or if this is just a bunch of smoke and mirrors before an agreement with New York.