Just as the 2008 season was about to begin, I remember hearing about a kid in the Red Sox minor-league system. He was a 6-3 220lb (now 240lbs) first base prospect, but it wasn’t his baseball prowess that was being talked about; it was his health. The 6th round selection in 2007 out of high school, Anthony Rizzo, had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 18. Rizzo began a 6-month battle including chemotherapy that thankfully resulted in the cancer going into remission in September 2008.
This was obviously terrible news for me personally, but it was even more grueling for my family because my Grandma was facing her own battle with breast cancer at the very same time. As bad as my chemotherapy treatments made me feel, I knew I had to dig deep and stay strong for everyone around me.Anthony Rizzo, Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation website
After recovering and feeling strong enough to resume his baseball career, Rizzo began to take off in 2009. Between A Greenville and A+ Salem, Rizzo hit .297 with 12 HRs and 166 RBIs. The biggest knock on him was his lack of power for a first baseman, but he was still climbing up the Red Sox prospect list to #8 in September 2009* and began 2010 at #5. In 2010, Rizzo began the year in A+ Salem before moving up to AA Portland and combined for to hit .334 with 25 HRs and 100 RBIs. The expectations were rapidly rising for the 6th round pick and he finished the season as the #3 prospect in the system.
It looked as though Rizzo would make the jump to AAA in 2011 and perhaps knock on the major league door as the year wore on, but his Red Sox story was cut short. In December 2010, Theo Epstein traded Anthony Rizzo, P Casey Kelly, OF Reymond Fuentes, and OF/2B Eric Patterson (player-to-be-named-later) to the San Diego Padres for 1B Adrian Gonzalez. Rizzo was then traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2012.
Since arriving in Chicago, Rizzo has shown what we saw glimpses of when he was younger. He is a 3x all-star, 4x gold glove award winner, a silver slugger award winner, and helped the Cubs break their world series drought in 2016. He appeared in at least 85% of his teams’ games from 2013 to 2020 and didn’t see his first DL-stint until 2018. At nearly 32, his best days are probably behind him in his career, but now is the perfect time for him to return to where his career began.
The rumors of a Rizzo return to Boston have been gaining momentum each day as the trade deadline approaches. One of the only offensive/defensive needs the Red Sox have through 101 games in the 2021 season is at first base and Rizzo has an expiring contract on a terrible Cubs team, so will come at a lower price than some other options. It wouldn’t just be a feel-good story, he would be a useful addition to the roster. Bobby Dalbec is just not getting the job done and the rotation of a 2B/OF Michael Chavis and OF Franchy Cordero in that spot is a clear weakness.
While I’m still hopeful that Dalbec can improve and take the 1B spot beyond 2021, the Red Sox need to fill the hole for the remainder of this year if they want to continue competing with the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and ultimately for a championship. A veteran leader in the clubhouse, a strong defensive presence, and someone who can hit for power from the left-side of the plate. What more could you want?
*According to SoxProspects.com