TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Rizzo was swayed back to the Bronx and the shape of the New York Yankees’ infield shifted again.
Late Tuesday, the lefty-hitting first baseman agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal.
Rizzo, 32, will earn $16 million this year and is eligible to opt out following the 2022 season, allowing him to again test free agency.
Now, the Yankees have an infield of Rizzo at first base, Gleyber Torres at second base, Isiah Kiner-Falefa at shortstop and Josh Donaldson at third base, with DJ LeMahieu expected to get starts at first, second and third.
“Absolutely, I enjoy that (role),” LeMahieu said. “I’m probably the most comfortable at second, but the way our team is constructed right now, that’s kind of taken a back seat.”
Following offseason surgery for a sports hernia, LeMahieu said he feels “great” but wouldn’t discuss whether his condition impacted his performance.
“I really don’t want to talk about last year,” said LeMahieu, whose OPS slipped from a combined .922 in 2019-20 to .711 in 2021.
Torres might also be considered as a trade chip, with the Yankees exploring upgrades in their rotation and center field options.
And the reunion with Rizzo likely means a new address for slugging, right-handed hitting first baseman Luke Voit, who is blocked at first base and designated hitter.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman attempted to deal Voit at last year’s trade deadline after acquiring Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs.
“I mean, it’s two times now,” Voit said Wednesday morning at his locker, a few stalls away from where Rizzo’s new No. 48 uniform was placed.
“I’m just going to stay positive. Obviously, I have no idea what’s going to happen,” said Voit, who hoped to get some clarity on his status Wednesday from Yankees management.
“I know they wanted to be left-handed, I get it,” Voit said. “They’ve been intent on that since last year (because) we were pretty right-hand dominant” through the lineup.
“It’s a business, I get it. (Cashman) brought me over here for a reason and I guess that reason isn’t really what it used to (be).”
Having played just 68 games last season due to left knee inflammation, prompting the Rizzo trade, Voit said he feels that physical issue is behind him.
“That’s all I wanted to control this year…being healthy and preparing myself for a long season and not be on the (injured list),” said Voit, who led MLB with 22 homers during the abbreviated 2020 season, finishing ninth in the AL MVP balloting.
Play it back
A three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove award winner at Wrigley Field, Rizzo reportedly turned down a five-year, $70 million extension by the Cubs last spring.
Though his contact rate, power and plus defense improve the Yankees, Rizzo’s re-signing seems like something of a consolation prize after the Yanks’ failed pursuit of first baseman Matt Olson.
Earlier this week, the Atlanta Braves swapped four young players, including two of their highest-rated prospects, to the Oakland Athletics for Olson, a gifted lefty hitter and defender with two years of team control remaining.
Olson was quickly signed by the Braves to an eight-year, $168 million deal.
The move for Rizzo also ends the Yankees’ flirtation with free agent Freddie Freeman, the former Braves icon, who has a clearer runway to land with the Los Angeles Dodgers – though a number of AL East clubs are reportedly in the mix.
Rizzo, whose parents were raised in Lyndhurst, batted a combined .248 with 22 homers and 61 RBI in 141 games last year.
In 200 plate appearances for the 2021 Yankees, Rizzo slashed .249/.340/.428 with eight homers and 21 RBI.
“He checks a lot of boxes about things you like about a ballplayer,” said manager Aaron Boone, speaking generally of Rizzo, who was not technically on his club Wednesday – pending a physical and placement on the 40-man roster.
But Boone acknowledged the tough position Voit is in, and praised him for his “tremendous” workday Wednesday, which included an opposite-field homer off Michael King during live BP.
“It’s not easy to be undistracted in this situation,” said Boone, who conversed with Voit throughout the day. “And I let him know I was really impressed with his professionalism.”
Blocked in the St. Louis Cardinals system, Voit became a power-hitting revelation after being traded to the Yanks in July 2018 for pitchers Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve.
“I’ve enjoyed myself since I’ve been here,” Voit said. “It’s the best place to play baseball. Who knows, maybe I’ll still be here.”