Anthony Rizzo was one of the hottest names at the 2021 trade deadline. A deal to send him back to the organization that drafted him, the Red Sox, seemed all but certain as rumors swirled until Brian Cashman swooped in to bring him to the Bronx. Rizzo arrived in the Bronx to fill in for the injured Luke Voit. He was essentially the same hitter before and after the trade, as his OPS+ changed by just two points (112 before, 110 after). Now that his time in the big apple has come to an end, the former face of Chicago baseball is a free agent for the first time in his career.
Rizzo enters a rather thin market of true first basemen. After Brandon Belt returned to the Giants by accepting the qualifying offer, Rizzo and Freddie Freeman are the only significant free-agent first basemen available. Beyond this trifecta, teams would be left with options such as Mitch Moreland, Travis Shaw, and Jose Martinez, among others. While they have been valuable players, they all seem to be in the twilight of their careers and would be out of place in a contending team’s starting lineup. This is great news for Rizzo. He should draw heavy interest from every team with a hole at first. On the other hand, not many teams seem poised to be heavily invested in the first base market.
As is often the case, the player’s former team seems, at least to some degree, to be a fit. The Yankees felt that Rizzo could help them win in 2021, and logically the same could apply to 2022 and beyond. However, the Yankees still have Luke Voit. While the two shared playing time once Voit returned from injury, it seems impractical to roster both for a full season. A trade is always a possibility, but the Yankees would be selling low on Voit. The Yankees should focus on improving other aspects of their roster this winter, but a Rizzo return to the Bronx is still very much on the table.
Given that Rizzo nearly landed in Boston in July, it seems plausible the team could make a push for him this winter. The fit here is very similar to the fit in the Bronx. The Red Sox acquired Kyle Schwarber after Rizzo went to New York to supplement first base. Schwarber ultimately spent more time at each of left field and DH than first, as Bobby Dalbec emerged as an impact hitter, and held on to his starting role as a result. While Dalbec currently lines up as the starting first baseman next season, it seems quite possible that the Red Sox could still look to supplement him on the roster. While Schwarber would seem to be the first choice in that department, Rizzo could take on a similar role.
The other big player in the first base market is Atlanta, at least technically. It seems very likely that the team will bring back Freddie Freeman. Both parties seem interested in making a deal, but the details remain to be sorted out. Several reports have indicated that Freeman is after a sixth year on the deal, which Atlanta has been hesitant to agree to so far. It’s hard to imagine the two sides not figuring this out, and Atlanta’s front office would be foolish to let an extra year prevent them from retaining the face of their franchise. But, should they fail to re-sign Freeman, Rizzo is the next best available option. Rizzo would fill the exact role as Freeman: a left-handed, veteran leader at first base, albeit at a different level of production than the former MVP.
The first base market is one of the thinnest around this winter. After Freeman, Rizzo is the clear-cut best option, yet where he ends up seems quite murky. Several teams will surely be interested, but they all have other options that they could turn to, should they not be able to get Rizzo at their price.
Matt O’Halloran is a junior mathematics major at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He works in analytics with the school’s baseball program. He is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and an editor at Diamond Digest. He can be found on Twitter @matto20.