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The Cubs' Case: Jose Abreu or Anthony Rizzo in 2023?

With first base being a clear need for the Cubs, and two veteran first basemen potentially on the market, who is the best option for the Cubs in 2023?
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Assuming both players are available this winter, who should the Cubs sign with 2023 in mind? Jose Abreu or Anthony Rizzo?

It is no secret in Chicago that the Chicago Cubs are in need of a first baseman. Yes, there is a chance that Matt Mervis becomes the man of the future. However, a more beneficial scenario for him is to start the season in Triple-A and continue to work on his defense. That said, there are a pair of veteran first basemen who may be on the market and in the wheelhouse for what the Cubs want to do. One is a free agent, who is drawing attention from the Cubs according to reports, and the other can be if he opts out of his deal. I present to you the case: Jose Abreu or Anthony Rizzo in Cubbie blue?

Both players are getting up there in age. Rizzo is currently 33, turning 34 in August 2023. Abreu is currently 35, but will turn 36 in January 2023. Although age can be a concern. The 2022 season gives a lot of insight into where both players are currently at in their careers. 

Without further ado, let's compare the players at the plate, in the field, and make a decision for the Cubs. 

The Bats

At the plate, both players bring a bit of a different style based on 2022 production. With the understanding that the new baseballs were going to affect power numbers, it was a tail of two seasons for both players with the long ball. However, in many of the other categories, they're relatively similar. 

Home Runs

Why are we highlighting home runs? Well, in case you didn't know, the Cubs want to add power this season. Sure, 23 home runs from a Trea Turner or 25 from Dansby Swanson would look really good, but adding another power bat would be cool too. Insert these two. 

Anthony Rizzo had the clear advantage in long balls. Rizzo sent 33 rockets into the outfields around baseball in 2022. As for Abreu, his normal home run numbers dipped significantly, hitting only 15 this past season. Excluding the 2020 season (even though he hit 19), Abreu has surpassed 22 home runs in every season of his career. 

It's not all about long balls, but for the Cubs, power will be an area they want to address this winter.

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Average and OPS

This is an area where many may be surprised. Both players were well above .800 OPS this season. Rizzo sported a .818 OPS and Abreu slightly bettered him with a .824 mark. However, Rizzo's rough .224 average was significantly lower than Abreu's .304. In addition, Abreu had a higher OBP (.378) than Rizzo (.338) although Rizzo's higher slugging (.480) helped his OPS more than Abreu's (.446 slugging). 

The Cubs are going to be built to score and get into scoring position. A higher average bat who can drive in runs is significantly more appealing than a .224 average. 

Other Batting Stats

When comparing these two players, there are a number of stats to keep in mind. Both players had 75 RBI this season, negating that stat in this argument. However, Abreu had more doubles (40) than Rizzo (21) and that could be an appealing trait to the Cubs. Hell, imagine two 40-double players in the Cubs' lineup with Abreu and Ian Happ next season. 

Other than that, they're oddly similar players. Runs scored, walks, strikeouts, etc. are all very similar. Yes, Rizzo is younger, but both still bring value at the dish. However, Abreu had well over 100 more plate appearances in 2022 than Rizzo did. Take that for what you will, especially in relation to strikeouts and such. 

The Glove

Now, this is an area that might surprise some people. Yes, Rizzo's defensive pedigree is far superior to Abreu's. Rizzo has four Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove to his name. Abreu on the other hand has no such accolades defensively. However, when looking at the underlying numbers, 2022 tells a different story. 

According to Baseball Savant, Jose Abreu was nearly a top-10 defensive first baseman this season with one Out Above Average (OAA) and was an even zero on Runs Prevented. As for Rizzo, he faired just as well as Cubs' first baseman Alfonso Rivas did. Both players were a -2 OAA and -2 in Runs Prevented. It was a rough underlying defensive season for the former Gold Glove winner. 

The Decision

At this point in their careers, Jose Abreu is likely the better stop gap on a one- or two-year deal with the Cubs than Anthony Rizzo is. The Cubs would likely love to see Matt "Mash" Mervis become their guy, but one of these two veterans would be a great transition player. When looking at power, it's clear Rizzo is the favorite. However, in just about everything else, Abreu looks like the much better player. Age is something that must be considered, but Abreu is one tough SOB and continues to thrive despite his age. 

If I'm Jed Hoyer and team in the front office, I'm signing Abreu over Rizzo for 2023. 

Who would you choose? Let us know @CubbiesOnTap or hit me up directly @LuceOnTap