'I love being a Yankee': Rizzo rejoins Bronx Bombers

November 17th, 2022

thoroughly enjoyed his first year and a half in a Yankees uniform, and there’s a simple explanation for what made him want to return: everything.

Rizzo and the Yankees agreed this week to a two-year contract worth at least $40 million. Rizzo will earn $17 million in each of the next two seasons, with a $17 million club option or $6 million buyout for 2025, sources told MLB.com.

“The main reason I wanted to come back is because I love being a Yankee,” Rizzo said. “I’ve been very fortunate to spend a lot of time in Chicago with the Cubs, an iconic franchise there. And now to be a part of this iconic franchise is amazing, to be able to be a part of it for at least two more years. To be in a big market, to be under the bright lights, to have that 24/7 scrutiny is one of the many things I love about this game.”

The 33-year-old Rizzo matched his career high with 32 home runs this past season, batting .224/.338/.480 with 77 runs scored, 21 doubles and 75 RBIs in 130 games. Rizzo provided left-handed balance to the lineup while contributing a reliable glove at first base.

In March, Rizzo signed a two-year, $32 million deal with the Yanks that included an opt-out after the 2022 season, which he exercised. Rizzo and outfielder both received qualifying offers, valued at $19.65 million, which they declined. Though the Astros were reportedly among the clubs interested in Rizzo, he said that there were no face-to-face meetings.

“It was definitely a process I haven’t been through before, with the opt-out and then the qualifying offer,” Rizzo said. “I was pretty surprised that we did get a deal done, just with how late everything came to fruition. But I’m very happy that it did come to an end.”

Rizzo said that he received a congratulatory message from his friend Judge -- “The basics: ‘well deserved, happy for you,’” -- and is hopeful that the biggest free agent on the market will remain with the Yankees.

“He’s played here, he’s spent his whole career here, so I can’t really recruit him too hard,” Rizzo said. “He knows all the ins and outs here. He’s in such a beautiful position. He’s in the driver’s seat. This is a position that not too many guys get to be in, with the historic season. I think he’s going to enjoy this process, see what teams have to say -- rightfully so, because he’s earned this. Whatever him and [his wife] Sam think is the best decision, that’s where he should go.”

Rizzo later added: “Obviously, I want to be his teammate. We’ve become good friends on the field, off the field. We really enjoyed playing with each other. But at the end of all this, a friendship here, a friendship somewhere else -- it’s still a friendship. It doesn’t mean you have to be on the same team to be friends. So wherever he’s at, I try to respect his privacy and his space and let him evolve with the decision on his own.”

Though Rizzo dealt with back spasms periodically last season, prompting a September stint on the injured list, he said that there were no issues during the postseason or in the first few weeks of the offseason.

“Hopefully moving forward, I don’t have to deal with things that I’ve dealt with in the past,” Rizzo said.

The only current Yankees player to have won a World Series ring (in 2016, with the Cubs), Rizzo believes that the club is capable of closing the gap with the Astros, who dealt New York an American League Championship Series sweep before going on to defeat the Phillies in a six-game World Series.

“We just have to pitch and play defense. That’s really the name of the game -- and timely hitting,” Rizzo said. “I think last year we did a really good job of that. Obviously we fell short, but in this game, if you give yourself a chance to make the playoffs and be four games away from the World Series -- as a competitor, that’s all you can ask for.”

More from Rizzo can be found in Bryan Hoch’s Yankees Beat newsletter this week. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.