Last year’s trade deadline brought monumental changes to the Chicago Cubs organization, seeing all three of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez. and Kris Bryant traded to contending teams. Just like that, their own contending window was slammed shut.
And while the northsiders are in somewhat of a rebuild now, that may not dissuade them from bringing back one of their sluggers. On the latest Inside The Clubhouse podcast, Bruce Levine suggested that it’s “possible” for the Cubs to reunite with Rizzo.
"“I’ve heard that’s possible. I’ve heard that it’s not out of the realm of giving a two or three-year contract. What if you heard, once the lockout ends, that the Cubs signed Rizzo to a two-year, $40M contract with a third-year option. Would that be shocking to you?” – Bruce Levine"
When the Cubs originally acquired Rizzo, he was coming off a disappointing 49-game sample size with the San Diego Padres. Still, he was widely considered the number one first-base prospect in the league. After his first year in Chicago, one that saw him hit .285 with 15 home runs and 48 RBI’s, Rizzo developed into one of the most consistent sluggers in the league.
He was routinely a 30-plus home run and 100 RBI guy while earning MVP consideration to go along with four Gold Glove Awards. So when he was traded to the Yankees mid-season last year, it was a landscape-changing trade for the organization. And while Frank Schwindel stepped in admirably, his age and track record suggest it was a fluke.
Rumors aside, does it make sense for the Chicago Cubs to reunite with first baseman Anthony Rizzo?
Despite being limited by a nagging back injury, Rizzo posted a .248/.346/.446 slash line with 14 home runs and 40 RBI’s in 92 games before being traded to the Bronx last season. With the Yankees, he posted similar metrics, hitting eight home runs and 21 RBI’s in 49 games to go along with a .249/.340/.428 slash line.
Between the two clubs, Rizzo finished in the 84th and 79th percentile for home runs and RBI’s, respectively.
That said, the Parkland, Floria native has seen a steady decline in WAR and wRC+ since the 2016 season.
Yes, the Cubs have the financial flexibility to get a suggested two-year, $40M contract done with Rizzo, one that would see him get paid slightly more per year than the previous five-year, $70M contract he turned down.
Understandably, Rizzo wants to get a contract that will set him and his family up for life, especially after taking a team-discounted seven-year, $41M contract extension in 2013.
However, with the Cubs in rebuild mode, what sense would there be in bringing Rizzo back? Nostalgia? He alone wouldn’t move the needle much toward the Cubs reaching the postseason.
We touched on Rizzo’s steady decline over the last few seasons. Fangraphs projected Rizzo to finish with a .260/ .362/.461 slash line to go along with 23 home runs and 75 RBI’s – all good for a 2.8 WAR. So essentially, bringing Rizzo back would equate to three more wins.
For what it’s worth, Fangraphs projects him to finish with a 2.2 and 1.7 WAR in 2023 and 2024, respectively. Rizzo’s defense also declined significantly last season, accounting for a -6 defensive runs saved (DRS).
He’ll have a place in Cubs fans’ hearts forever for his contributions in part of 10 seasons with the team. That said, bringing Rizzo back for nostalgic reasons doesn’t seem like the best use of the Ricketts money at this time.