Anthony Rizzo Traded to Yankees: How The Deal With Cubs Alters New York’s Odds, Playoff Projections

Anthony Rizzo Traded to Yankees: How The Deal With Cubs Alters New York’s Odds, Playoff Projections article feature image
Credit:

Quinn Harris/Getty Images. Pictured: Anthony Rizzo.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has been traded to the New York Yankees, the YES Network’s Jack Curry reported on Thursday.

Rizzo has not been the same hitter at the plate over the last two seasons, but the Yankees made this move hoping that Rizzo can rebound to the form he had between 2014 and 2019, when he hit .284/.388/.513 with an average of about 30 homers per season for six seasons.

This year, the three-time All-Star is averaging .248/.346/.446 with 14 homers and 40 RBI — a far cry from his 2019 season, when he had a .405 on-base percentage with 27 homers and 94 RBI.

In 2020, he hit .222/.342/.414 with a drastically reduced hard-hit rate and exit velocity.

The move will allow New York to switch DJ LeMahieu back to his more natural position at second base in the short-term. The odd man out would be Rougned Odor, who has hit a respectable .232/.303/.454 in 62 games as a second baseman.

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Usual first baseman Luke Voit will return from his bone bruise injury some time in August, and it remains to be seen how playing time will be split among the two, should Voit stay with New York.

Rizzo has seven Outs Above Average at first base so far this season compared to LeMahieu’s two and Voit’s one, according to Baseball Savant.

Another possibility would be for Rizzo to join the DH carousel with Giancarlo Stanton and the newly acquired Joey Gallo.

Stanton has held the mantle as the Yankees’ designated hitter since he was acquired in Dec. 2017 and has not played the field since 2019. Stanton is hitting .258/.353/.454 with 16 homers so far this year.

Gallo has had a career year and is tied for 11th in MLB in Wins Above Replacement with 4.1, according to ESPN.

The 27-year-old is hitting .223/.379/.490 with 25 homers and an MLB-leading 74 walks.

Despite coming into the season as clear -223 favorites to win the AL East, the Yankees have drastically underperformed. They are currently nine games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in the division and three games back from the Oakland A’s for the second Wild Card spot.

New York has a 44.5% chance to make the playoffs and a 5.3% to win the division, according to FanGraphs. Those marks were up from 41.7% and 4.2%, respectively, on Wednesday.

DraftKings slates the Yankees’ odds to make the playoffs at -110 yes, -110 no, up from +110 yes, -130 no on Wednesday.

The Yankees have 17-1 odds to win the World Series and 9-1 odds to win the AL East at DraftKings.

The Cubs have become firm sellers this summer due to their precarious playoff position and with their World Series winning core of Kris Bryant, Rizzo and Javier Baez eligible for free agency after the season.

Chicago entered play Thursday 11 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Central lead. They have a 0.8% chance to make the playoffs and a 0.4% to win the division, according to FanGraphs.

The Cubs will receive pitcher Alexander Vizcaino and outfielder Kevin Alcantara as a part of the deal.

Rizzo will enter free agency this fall for the first time in his career after his nine-year, $73 million deal expires.

Sean Zerillo’s Projections and Analysis

The Rizzo acquisition improves the Yankees “True Talent” level by 1.8 wins in my projections, and combined with their trade for Joey Gallo on Wednesday, I have increased their full-season power ranking by four wins — from 88.3 wins to 92.3 wins — over the past 24 hours.

That ranking puts them two full wins clear of the Rays (90) and substantially ahead of both the Blue Jays (86.2) and Red Sox (83.5) in AL East roster talent.

Still, following their loss on Thursday afternoon to the Rays, I project the Yankees on the outside looking in concerning the American League playoff picture:

Updated 2021 Projection

  • Tampa Bay: 93.7 wins (AL East Champion)
  • Boston: 93.4 wins (AL Wild Card No. 1)
  • Oakland: 88.9 wins (AL Wild Card No. 2)

  • New York: 88 wins
  • Toronto: 84 wins

The Yankees have crushed both right-handed (122 wRC+, 4th in MLB) and left-handed pitching this season (115 wRC+, 2nd in MLB), but adding a pair of lefty bats in Gallo and Rizzo helps to balance out the righty-dominant presence of DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez.

Moreover, Rizzo has been an above-average hitter against same-sided pitching for his entire career (116 wRC+), so this offense should dominate left-handed pitching.

Rizzo also brings a contact-heavy approach to the Yankee lineup and immediately becomes their least strikeout-prone bat (15.7%, 114th out of 136 qualified hitters) aside from LeMahieu (15.2%), which helps to alleviate some concerns provided by Gallo (32.2%), Judge (25.3%), and Stanton (28.8%).

BJ Cunningham’s Analysis

This trade is very interesting for a multitude of reasons. The first question I have is how is Rizzo going to slot into their lineup when Luke Voit is coming back from injury this week?

Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t played an inning in the outfield since 2019 and has only played right field, which is Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge’s primary position.

Presumably as things stand right now, unless Gallo moves to center, Judge moves to left (a position he has not played in big leagues) and Stanton moves into right field so the Yankees can get all five guys in the lineup. Otherwise, they are going to have to rotate on a game by game basis.

Rizzo’s has put up solid numbers at the plate this season:

  • wOBA: .343
  • xwOBA: .353
  • wRC+: 115
  • HR: 14
  • K%: 15.7%
  • BB%: 9.6%

The question is will he be an upgrade for the Yankees? He does have a better wOBA and xwOBA than Luke Voit in limited playing time, but his numbers are very similar to Stanton. So for him to be an upgrade, it’s going to be dependent on how the Yankees reconfigure their defense.

What he will provide is some stability to a lineup with a very high strikeout rate. Stanton, Judge, Voit, Sanchez and Gallo all have K%’s over 25%, while Rizzo consistently for his career is only around 15%.

He’s usually a solid defender with positive DRS in every season up until 2021, where he has -2 DRS and a -1.6 DEF rating on Frangraphs. DJ LeMahieu has been forced to play first base with Voit hurt, so getting Rizzo would guarantee that he can shift back to his natural position at second base. Voit has consistently been a below average defender at first base with -23 DRS for his career, so Rizzo would be an upgrade at first base defensively.

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