As much as I’d rather be writing about something a little more worthwhile, we’re in serious baseball doldrums as the pending World Series puts a damper on any actual news. So rather than examining how the Phillies have sold a record amount of merch in the wake of their berth in the Fall Classic — huh, winning generates big revenue — I have chosen to speculate on Anthony Rizzo‘s future while also clarifying some language regarding his Cubs departure.
The Cubs low-balled Anthony Rizzo with their reported extension offer.
Rizzo should have taken the offer because it's way more than what he ended up getting.
These things can both be true because time kinda changes the context.
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) October 25, 2022
Since it’s getting people all hot and bothered online, let’s just go ahead and start with the notion that the Cubs low-balled Rizzo last spring. While it’s true that their reported offer of five years and $70 million looks a lot better than the two years and $32 million he got from the Yankees, it’s fallacy to compare the two directly. A lot of folks are choosing to contextualize the Cubs’ offer in light of subsequent events, but we have to look at how that offer came across at the time.
Informed speculation had Rizzo seeking something in the nine-figure range, significantly higher than the reported four-year, $60 million extension the Cubs initially offered. It’s very easy to look back at things now after he followed up an abysmal 2020 campaign with a disappointing performance in ’21, but Rizzo was clearly betting on himself to bounce back. He and his representatives were surely leaning on his intrinsic value to the franchise as a foundational player and community advocate as well.
They ended up overplaying their hand on both fronts, as Jed Hoyer eschewed emotional ties while Rizzo failed to produce in a big way during his contract year. His combined 3.0 fWAR from 2020-21 was lower than in any single season since ’13, which, combined with his balky back, led to a short-term deal to remain in New York following the trade.
Let’s try a little analogy to see if it helps to frame this all up. You put your home on the market at a fair price of $500,000 and you receive an offer of $375,000 that you turn down without even considering it because it’s nowhere near your ask. Then there’s a mild earthquake that results in a crack to your home’s foundation, at which point the value tanks and you scramble to accept an offer of $225,000 just to ensure you can move. You’d have been better off taking the initial lowball offer, but only after knowing what was about to happen.
In any case, Rizzo’s tenure in the Bronx might be very limited, as he is expected to opt out of the remaining year and $16 million of his contract to re-enter free agency. Or perhaps it’s a matter of working out a new deal with the Yankees that provides more guaranteed money over a long period. Based on his recent comments, it sounds like he’s planning to stay put.
“I hope it’s in a Yankee uniform, for him and for baseball in general,” Rizzo told reporters. “We’re seeing people jump ship so much. The fitting thing would be for him to do a press conference receiving not only the money he deserves, but also the captain title.”
When it comes to how that’s all going to play out, I think we’ll see Rizzo back with New York on a 2-3 year deal worth $13-15 million annually. I can see egos and pride getting in the way of a Cubs reunion if he does legitimately test free agency, but another kind of homecoming could be in the cards at some point. Whether it’s this offseason or to finish out his career, we’ve mentioned here in the past that Rizzo would be interested in heading back to South Florida.
Regardless of the exact path, he could still end up doing better than what he’d have gotten from the Cubs. Based on the reported $70 million offer, Rizzo just needs to get $54 million over the next four years ($13.5M AAV) to make it a wash. Then you consider that the Yankees went to the playoffs last year, then won 99 games and were World Series favorites for much of this season while the Cubs were in the running for a bottom-three record in the first half. There’s a lot of value in winning, and the Yankees are in better position to do so at this point.
This whole message gets muddied because people think I’m criticizing the Cubs when I say they gave Rizzo a lowball offer in the spring of ’21. The point is that, while that offer looks quite fair as we look back on it, the Cubs knew Rizzo was never going to accept it. Alas, it’s difficult or even impossible in some cases to remove the corrective vision of hindsight and set aside inherent bias in semantics.
My hope at this point is that Rizzo gets something worked out quickly to stay in New York, if only because the resultant speculation about a return to the North Side would be nigh unbearable. And to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to see him back with the Cubs anyway. Maybe that’s because I just want to see Matt Mervis given the everyday role or maybe it’s a matter of keeping myself from picking at the last remaining emotional scabs from that great run.
I guess we’ll know in about a week whether I’m covering more reunion rumors or writing them off as a flight of fancy.