The rumors connecting Anthony Rizzo to the Boston Red Sox make total sense.
The Chicago Cubs figure to be sellers before Friday’s Major League Baseball trade deadline, and the Red Sox, expected buyers, have a glaring need at first base, the position Rizzo has occupied in the Windy City for the past decade.
Plus, Rizzo bats left-handed, is a highly regarded clubhouse leader, should be attainable at a reasonable cost given his proximity to free agency and already has ties to the Red Sox, having been drafted by the organization in the sixth round in 2007.
In essence, he checks all the boxes. And then some.
As such, it should come as little surprise to learn the Red Sox and Cubs have had preliminary discussions about a possible deal, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, and that Boston’s interest in Rizzo is “real,” per NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer.
The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma even added Wednesday that a Red Sox pro scout was in attendance Monday and Tuesday when the Cubs hosted the Cincinnati Reds. Rizzo made a strong impression, too, hitting a home run in both games. The 31-year-old entered Wednesday having homered in three straight contests, giving him 14 for the season to go along with 40 RBIs and a .248/.347/.448 slash line.
Rizzo’s hot streak serves as a strong indicator that while he might not be the same elite first baseman who earned three straight All-Star selections and top-10 National League MVP finishes from 2014 to 2016, he’s still a productive hitter capable of lengthening any lineup he joins.
The Red Sox, collectively, boast one of the best offenses in baseball, but such potency has come despite limited output from first base, where Bobby Dalbec has largely struggled in his rookie season. Boston ranks dead-last in WAR (minus-1.4) from first base.
Acquiring Rizzo hardly would mean the Red Sox are throwing in the towel on Dalbec, a 26-year-old with immense power who’s been working through swing-and-miss issues in 2021 after turning heads with a small-sample, big-league outburst in 2020. Rizzo, who’s set to become a free agent this winter, instead represents a short-term, left-handed alternative to the right-handed-hitting Dalbec, though it’s worth noting the former’s numbers this season actually have been better against southpaws in a departure from his career norm.
Ultimately, like with any trade, it all could boil down to acquisition cost and the Cubs’ willingness to move off their initial asking price, which sources told Sharma “remains pretty high.” And frankly, Chicago might have no other choice but to eventually budge, seeing as Rizzo probably doesn’t have the most robust market as a veteran rental who doesn’t play a premium position.
Really, it could be the Red Sox or bust for Rizzo. And while the Cubs theoretically could keep their beloved first baseman, either in the hopes of re-signing him this offseason or content on settling for the compensation pick they’d receive if he signs elsewhere in free agency, a trade still seems like the more prudent move with Friday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline looming.
Of course, there are other first base options the Red Sox might consider, including Carlos Santana, Jesús Aguilar and Eric Hosmer. But Rizzo probably is the cleanest match right now, all factors considered.