Levine: A reunion between Anthony Rizzo, Cubs could make sense for both sides

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(670 The Score) As the MLB lockout has now entered its third month of disrupting the offseason, front offices continue to internally discuss the options to fill out their rosters once a new labor deal is reached.

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Free agency will happen quickly, and teams will have to be ready to act. In the case of the Cubs, they could look to bring back a familiar face.

The Cubs have had internal conversations about offering 32-year-old first baseman Anthony Rizzo a new contract when free agency begins, sources said. Rizzo is a franchise icon who played for the Cubs from 2012 until last July, when he was dealt to the Yankees just before the trade deadline. The Cubs wanted to get value and turn the focus to their future amid a lost season before Rizzo and other star players walked into free agency.

The are several reasons why a Rizzo-Cubs reunion would make sense. To begin, the rebuilding Cubs want to compete in 2022 and are in need of a left-handed power bat who can also play strong defense. Rizzo could help address those needs. He hit .248 with 22 homers and a .783 OPS in 141 games in 2021.

The Cubs have three projected regulars who are left-handed bats – switch-hitting outfielder Ian Happ, outfielder Rafael Ortega and outfielder Jason Heyward – but they’ve either lacked consistency or power.

The Cubs’ most consistent power in 2021 came from third baseman Patrick Wisdom (28 homers in 106 games) and first baseman Frank Schwindel (13 homers and a 1.002 OPS in 56 games), the latter of whom took on a bigger role after the Cubs’ trade of Rizzo. Both are right-handed bats. Adding Rizzo would give the Cubs’ lineup better balance and manager David Ross more options to create quality matchups.

The belief across MLB is that the universal designated hitter will be implemented in the new labor agreement. If that’s the case, the Cubs would have more flexibility to use Schwindel and Rizzo in the same lineup on a regular basis. With chronic back issues, Rizzo would benefit from a lighter defensive workload and stay better rested.

The biggest questions that remain are the financial aspect and whether Rizzo wants to return to a franchise that he loved but which traded him about seven months ago. Rizzo earned a little more than $70 million from the Cubs over the course of a decade. That’s a lot of money, but he likely left $100 million on the table during his prime by signing a long-term contract with Chicago early in his career.

The Yankees will have interest in bringing back Rizzo, but they’re also rumored to be in the mix for star first baseman Freddie Freeman as he remains unsigned. The Yankees will likely want clarity on his choice before they round back to Rizzo. If they lose Freeman, the Braves could then have interest in Rizzo. The Brewers and Marlins are two other clubs looking for a starting first baseman.

The Cubs offered Rizzo a five-year, $70-million extension before the 2021 season, according to reports. He turned it down. A shorter multi-year deal would be the logical route should the Cubs engage with Rizzo in contract discussions.

Few players in Cubs history have had a bigger impact than Rizzo on the fan base and in the community. Now, the question is whether Rizzo could once again be the right fit as the Cubs look to move forward into a new phase.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.