Yankees could replace Anthony Rizzo at first base with one free agent option

josh bell, mets

A big part of the New York Yankees offseason will depend on what slugger Anthony Rizzo decides to do with his future. He has a player option for the 2023 campaign worth $16 million: if he exercises it, the Yanks can, and will, focus on retaining Aaron Judge and improving the roster. If he doesn’t, then they will need to find a solution for first base.

That solution can obviously mean re-signing Rizzo to a multi-year contract, if he opts out at all (which seems likely). The 33-year-old is coming off a strong season in which he slashed .224/.338/.480 with a .818 OPS, 32 home runs, 77 runs and 75 RBI.

However, if Rizzo decides to leave and somebody offers him a three or four-year deal, the Yankees might be forced to look elsewhere to fill the first base void.

There aren’t a lot of encouraging free agent alternatives out there, but former San Diego Padres first baseman Josh Bell could be one. When healthy, Rizzo is probably the better hitter and defender, but Bell is not bad at all (123 wRC+ in 2022, 116 for his career) and is younger, at 30 years old.

The Yankees can at least consider Bell if Rizzo leaves

In 2022, Bell split time with the Washington Nationals and the Padres, and hit .266/.362/.422 with 17 home runs, 78 runs scored, and 71 RBI. That on-base percentage would look good in the Yankees lineup.

Since he is a switch-hitter, he bats left-handed most of the time, so there are reasons to believe his home run output could increase in Yankee Stadium’s short porch.

Bell does have something to improve as a hitter: getting the ball in the air. He hit it on the ground half of the time both in 2022 and over his career, and to maximize his offensive skills, he can benefit from more line drives and fly balls.

All things considered, the Yankees should be better off making sure Rizzo returns. But if he doesn’t – it’s baseball, and anything can happen – they can at least consider Bell as an alternative.

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