Could Yankees trade expensive veteran first baseman?

mlb: kansas city royals at new york yankees, anthony rizzo
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The rumor mill is heating up for the New York Yankees as the 2024 off-season gets underway. With only the World Series left, free agency is about to open, setting the stage for the Yankees to reinforce their roster and address weaknesses.

Potential Shifts: Eyeing Juan Soto, Considering Rizzo’s Future

Amid interest in San Diego Padres’ superstar Juan Soto, the Yankees might aim to offload some salary. One option could be moving veteran first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a strategy that Aaron Judge might not favor due to their friendship.

Rizzo, entering the final year of his two-year, $40 million deal—which includes a 2025 club option—could see his time with the Yankees ending post-2024. Trading him this off-season would save $20 million, but his value has declined following a concussion that drastically affected his performance post-May 28.

Rizzo’s Performance Dive: The Concussion Factor

From Opening Day until his concussion—caused by a knee to the head during a game against the Padres in late May—Rizzo showcased stellar performance, hitting .304 with a .376 OBP and .505 slugging rate. However, after the injury, his metrics plummeted, transforming him into a shadow of his former self. This decline was largely due to undiagnosed symptoms affecting his vision and energy levels, ultimately leading the Yankees to bench him for the season’s remainder. His final game came against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 1, hitting .172 with a .271 OBP and a 44 wRC+ across 192 plate appearances following the injury.

Yankees’ Strategic Moves: Trading Rizzo for Financial Flexibility?

According to Andy Martino of SNY, the Yankees might contemplate trading Rizzo to the Padres, potentially as part of a deal for Soto. This move would free up $20 million, facilitating the financing of Soto’s final arbitration year before he hits free agency. Alternatively, the Yankees could retain Rizzo until his contract expires, thus saving funds for when Soto becomes available, a straightforward fiscal strategy.

Upcoming Talent: Ben Rice as a Possible Replacement

Rice won the Yankees’ Developmental Hitter award this past season, and while he’s primed for a jump to Triple-A, the 24-year-old hit .327 with a .401 OBP, .648 slugging rate, 16 homers, and 48 RBIs across 48 Double-A games this year.

With impressive Double-A stats this past season, Rice seems ready for Triple-A. Despite his traditional role as a catcher, his experience at first base throughout his minor league tenure could prove valuable.

Judge’s Perspective: Keeping the Team Intact

Aaron Judge has openly shared his thoughts on steering the Yankees back to success. However, his vision likely involves keeping Rizzo on the roster, opposing a trade that would send his teammate to another team.

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