The New York Yankees didn’t make any significant splashes in free agency this past off-season, rather depending on some familiar faces. General manager Brian Cashman has looked to the trade market as a supplement for positions rather than signing big-money players, especially with Aaron Judge’s monster deal waiting in the wings.
Acquiring Clay Holmes and Jamison Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jose Trevino from Texas, and a bevy of starters for the Minnesota Twins, the Yankees get most of their value in trades.
However, their most productive free-agent signing is proving to be Anthony Rizzo at first base.
The Yankees were reportedly intrigued by Freddie Freeman, formerly of the Atlanta Braves, and potentially trading for Matt Olson from Oakland.
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The Yankees are getting the absolute most out of Rizzo:
However, Rizzo is having a dominant season at 32 years old. The veteran infielder is hitting .228 with a 33% on-base rate and .500 slugging percentage. His 17 homers over 63 games would put him on pace for over 40 this season, smashing his personal best of 32.
Against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night, Rizzo was electric, recording two hits and four RBIs, all coming off a Grand Slam in the 5th inning. Rizzo’s homer brought the Yankees’ run total to 10. They ended up winning 12–3.
This season, Anthony hosts a 38.6% hard-hit rate and a career-best 11.1% barrel rate. His 18.1° of launch angle is the highest in his career, producing fewer line drives and more fly balls, which is equating to more homers.
Interestingly, pitchers aren’t throwing fastballs as much to Rizzo this season, seeing an 8% decrease in the category. They’re leaning more toward breaking balls and offspeed pitches, which he’s raking. Against fastballs, Rizzo is hitting .215, but on offspeed pitches, he’s hitting .264 with four homers. This might suggest that pitchers start throwing him more fastballs since he’s absolutely demolishing offspeed pitches.
Defensively, Rizzo has been stout, despite a few errors this season. Scooping the ball out of the dirt has become a daily occurrence for the veteran first baseman, posting a .992 fielding percentage over 429 innings.
After years of tumultuous play at first base, including Greg Bird and Luke Voit, the Yankees have found a long-term solution, at least over the next two years. Rizzo isn’t only a valuable piece on the baseball diamond, he’s also a strong leader in the clubhouse, delivering inspiring words. If he can continue to play at this rate and lead this team, the sky is the limit for the New York Yankees.