Yankees to shut down veteran first baseman for rest of 2023

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After being diagnosed with a concussion that took place roughly two months before symptoms appeared following a collision with Padres’ star Fernando Tatis Jr., the Yankees are shutting down 1B Anthony Rizzo, according to YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits. The 34-year-old first baseman had a great 2022 season where he tied his career-best for HRs (32) and posted a 132 wRC+, his best since the 2019 season. While expectations were high for the 2016 World Series Champion after re-signing on a two-year deal with a third-year option, the aforementioned concussion only proved to derail his season.

Rizzo posted just a 45 wRC+ in 195 Plate Appearances while hitting just one HR and slugging a measly .227. The Yankees felt as if they were running out of time per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, and while he’s still improving, wanted to start his offseason early and allow him to recover from a serious injury.

Yankees Looking to Veteran Infielder to Hold Down First

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees, dj lemahieu
Jul 8, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) hits a double against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Filling in for most games at first base since Rizzo’s injury has been veteran utilityman DJ LeMahieu, who has turned his season around following a putrid first half. He’s hit .283 with 7 HRs and a 141 wRC+, his first stretch of sustained success since hitting the IL last September with toe problems, resulting in his absence in the postseason. LeMahieu has changed the story surrounding his 2023 season, as while he’s only at a 100 wRC+, it’s much improved from the early-season results, and we’re starting to see the LeMahieu we saw for most of 2022.

He’s held the fort down defensively as well, with +1 DRS at the position despite being more experienced and familiar with 2B/3B, winning the utilityman Gold Glove last season. He’s no Anthony Rizzo at first, but he’s gotten the job done in his absence, and this confirms that they’ll continue to trot him out as the starter for the rest of the season. It’ll serve to help DJ end the season strong and get his numbers back to where they need to be, as the Yankees do plenty of re-evaluating of their roster, specifically when it comes to the lineup.

In Rizzo’s case, he enters his last guaranteed season under his new contract with the third year being a team option the Yankees can decide if they want him around for an extra season or not. 2023 may have been a wash for the former All-Star, but prior to his injury his wRC+ and OBP were far improved from 2022, and he’ll look to work back from his concussion and try to re-capture his pre-concussion offense.