Who fits the Cubs better – Anthony Rizzo or Jose Abreu?

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Recently, reports surfaced suggesting former Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will likely opt out of his deal with the New York Yankees. Rizzo made $16 million in 2022 and has a player option for 2023.

Naturally, the ears of the Cubs fan community perked up when the report came out. Chicago has several potential options in the free agent market for a first baseman/DH. They have already been linked to White Sox star Jose Abreu, who is a free agent this winter and whose time on the South Side seems to be at an end. How could Rizzo or Abreu potentially help the Cubs?

Cubs: Comparing numbers between Anthony Rizzo and Jose Abreu

Each player brings valuable things to the table. Cubs fans do not need to be reminded of what Rizzo is capable of. That said, it is worth looking into the 2022 numbers to see where both players stand heading into free agency.

Rizzo, in 130 games with the Yankees, hit .224/.338/.480 with 32 home runs, an .817 OPS, 132 wRC+ and carried a 2.4 fWAR. It is worth noting that his defensive numbers have dipped in the past two years. While worth a career 68 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), he posted a -6 DRS in 2021 and -3 DRS in 2022. Overall he posted a 0.4 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) this year.

In 157 games with the Sox, Abreu hit .304/.378/.446 with 15 home runs, .824 OPS, 137 wRC+ and was a 3.9 fWAR player. The one knock on Abreu’s bat in 2022 was the dip in home run power. It was the first time in his career he failed to hit at least 22 home runs (outside of the COVID-shortened 2020). Was this due to him being 35 and aging? Or a result of White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino’s “[Bleep] the home run,” philosophy?

We can see similarities and differences in the numbers. The wRC+ and OPS numbers are pretty dang similar. Rizzo brought more home run power, while Abreu was a better overall hitter. From 2014-2019, Rizzo was the better OBP guy between the two, but this has not been the case in the past few years. Look at these lines below:

  • Rizzo since 2020: .234/.341/.451 – .792 OPS
  • Abreu since 2020: .289/.366/.489 – .855 OPS

Who is a better fit for the Cubs?

This turns into a “Venn Diagram” debate. Both Abreu and Rizzo are established veterans who have a great track record as power-hitting run producers.

Rizzo has the lefty power, which is something the Cubs definitely need. And even if he would play some DH and his fielding skills are a bit diminished, one would probably still rather have his glove at first (36.6 career UZR) vs. Abreu’s (-16.6 career UZR).

Abreu, on the other hand, has simply been a better hitter in recent years. His consistency is notable as is his durability. He is older than Rizzo (Abreu will be 36 next season), but he has been able to stay on the field. Rizzo has had those nagging back issues, which is something that will not magically go away. Signing Abreu is more of a risk based on the age number, while Rizzo does have some ailment concerns, even if they are not overly serious.

This feels like a pick-and-choose priority for the Cubs, especially if the role of prospect Matt Mervis is still up in the air. If Jed Hoyer wants one of these guys to play a decent amount of time at first, and desire more established lefty power, then Rizzo fits well. If they are looking for a primary DH who can hit consistently and play first on a more “need” basis, Abreu fits the bill.

Next. Cubs deserve our trust. dark

Who is actually more likely? Right now we have heard about the interest of the Cubs and Abreu, and Rizzo still has to officially opt out when the time comes. Never say never, but if I were a betting man, I would say it feels like the ship has sailed when it comes to Rizzo in a Cubs uniform.