Cubs, Anthony Rizzo set to meet for first time since emotional trade

(Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

The image of Anthony Rizzo and his family taking farewell photos in front of the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field late last July are yet to fade from memory. All the same, with the Cubs opening a weekend series in the Bronx against the Yankees Friday, we’re set to get our first head-to-head matchup against the longtime Chicago first baseman since that emotional trade last summer.

New York has been dominant over the season’s first two months and boast an MLB-best 41-16 record, in search of its first World Series title since 2009. Rizzo has played his role well, despite a deflated batting average, he’s got a 130 OPS+, an .802 OPS and 14 home runs on the season.

Rizzo re-joined the Yankees in free agency last offseason, signing a one-year, $16 million deal with a player option for 2023. That ended any hopes of a reunion with the Cubs, at least for now. In the Big Apple, the 32-year-old first baseman has a very real shot at winning a second ring. With that opportunity, he could put himself in a position to re-test the free agent waters this winter.

Cubs will have their hands full with Yankees, Anthony Rizzo this weekend

But for now, it’s all about this weekend’s matchup against his former team. Chicago, a club very much in flux and poised to be sellers for the second consecutive summer, at least on paper, looks wildly overmatched heading into the series.

New York boasts an American League-leading .757 OPS as a team, headlined by Aaron Judge’s 22 home runs and 1.054 OPS. The Cubs, meanwhile, are 10 games under .500, and the biggest storylines surrounding the team revolve around which guys will wind up traded by the end of July.

As for Rizzo’s time in Chicago, there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said a million times over by this point. For the greater part of a decade, he was a staple on the North Side and helped completely rewrite the narrative surrounding the organization, as a whole. It was disappointing not only to see the front office fail to extend him, but for both sides to take shots at one another in the immediate aftermath of the trade, as well.

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None of that should take away from the legacy Rizzo left behind in Wrigleyville and, while we’ll have to wait a bit longer to welcome him back to the Friendly Confines, this weekend’s matchup will bring back plenty of memories, all the same.