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Anthony Rizzo hopes Aaron Judge will be Yankees teammate again

Anthony Rizzo agreed to re-sign with the Yankees on Tuesday before knowing if his good friend Aaron Judge would do the same.

Rizzo wanted to be back in The Bronx “because I love being a Yankee,” he said — and the $40 million guaranteed over two years didn’t hurt — but he now has an even more vested interest in how Judge’s free agency plays out this offseason.

“I hope Judge stays, just for the sake of the game, because you see a lot of franchise icons not getting what they deserve [from] the team that they have done so much for,” Rizzo said Wednesday on a Zoom call.

Rizzo has some experience in that department. His situation was different than Judge’s, but the first baseman was a franchise staple in Chicago, where he helped the Cubs break their 108-year World Series championship drought in 2016. Then, entering his walk year in 2021, he reportedly turned down a five-year, $70 million extension offer, which led to the Cubs trading him to the Yankees that summer.

Since then, Rizzo signed a two-year, $32 million contract with the Yankees in March before opting out to get a raise on Tuesday, when he inked a two-year, $34 million deal with a $17 million club option in the third year that includes a $6 million buyout.

Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Money aside, Rizzo said multiple times Wednesday that he only wants the best for Judge and his family.

“Obviously I want to be his teammate,” Rizzo said. “We’ve become good friends on the field and off the field. We’ve really enjoyed playing with each other. But at the end of all of this, a friendship here or a friendship somewhere else, it’s still a friendship. It doesn’t mean you have to be on the same team to be friends. So wherever he’s at, I try to respect his privacy and his space and then let him come up with the decision on his own.”

As for Rizzo’s decision, the 33-year-old said he was surprised by how quickly a deal came together. Since he opted out of his contract last week, he had received enough interest from teams that even if he did not get a deal done with the Yankees, he still felt confident in turning down the qualifying offer, believing he would be able to get a similar deal elsewhere.

The Astros were one of the teams reportedly interested in Rizzo’s left-handed bat — he said Wednesday he gave consideration to every team that showed interest, declining to get into detail — but instead the Yankees made sure he did not get away.

“The main reason I wanted to come back is because I love being a Yankee,” Rizzo said. “I’ve been very fortunate to spend a lot of time in Chicago with the Cubs, an iconic franchise there. Now to be part of this iconic franchise is amazing. To be able to be a part of it for at least two more years is an amazing feeling. To be in the big market, to be under the bright lights, to have that 24/7 scrutiny is one of the many things I love about this game.”

Rizzo hit 32 home runs with a .817 OPS in 130 games this year for the Yankees — and then was one of their best hitters in the playoffs — though he missed some time with back issues. But he said Wednesday he is feeling good and knows how he needs to take care of his back so that it does not become an issue moving forward.

“Towards the end of the year, it was kind of resolving on its own,” Rizzo said. “Really, I feel like physically coming into this offseason I put myself in the best position body-wise to really improve myself. That’s what I plan on doing.”

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