Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) and rightfielder Aaron Judge...

Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) and rightfielder Aaron Judge (99) on the dugout fence in the 7th inning in Game 3 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on Oct 22, 2022 Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

The occasion was a Zoom news conference on Wednesday to talk about the contract Anthony Rizzo signed to stay with the Yankees.

But the hot topic was free agent Aaron Judge.

Rizzo became good friends with Judge after joining the Yankees during the 2021 season. So if anyone has any insight into whether the probable AL MVP (the results will be announced on Thursday) is going to re-sign with the Yankees, it should be Rizzo.

If Rizzo has any idea of where the single-season AL home run leader with 62 last season will play in 2023 and beyond, he kept it to himself. Rizzo said he was not planning to lobby Judge to return to the Bronx.

“He’s spent his whole career here, so I don’t think – I can’t really recruit him too hard,” Rizzo said. “He knows everything, all the ins and outs here. I think he’s in such a beautiful position. He's in the driver's seat. This is a position that not too many guys get to be in with the historic season. I think he's going to enjoy this process, hear what teams have to say, rightfully so because he's earned this. Whatever him and (wife) Sam think are the best decisions, that’s where he should go and that’s where his heart should go.”

Rizzo said Judge reached out after the first baseman agreed to a two-year contract with a third-year option that is worth a guaranteed $40 million and could grow to $51 million.

Congrats, Judge said, or something close to that, according to Rizzo. What Judge didn’t say is, “See you in Tampa for spring training after I re-sign with the Yankees.”

“Like I said, whatever is going to make him and Sam happy, that’s the most important thing,” Rizzo said. “Obviously, I want to be his teammate. We’ve become good friends on the field, off the field. We’ve really enjoyed playing with each other, but at the end of all of this a friendship here, a friendship somewhere else, it’s still a friendship. Doesn’t mean you have to be on the same team to be friends. Wherever he’s at, I try to respect his privacy and his space and let him come up with the decision on his own.”

Rizzo has more value to the Yankees than just an FOA (Friend of Aaron). The 33-year-old hit 32 home runs with 75 RBIs in 130 games and was a defensive anchor in the infield.

So why did Rizzo come back with the Judge situation up in the air?

"The main reason I wanted to come back is because I love being a Yankee," Rizzo said. "To be in a big market, to be under the bright lights and to have that 24/7 scrutiny is just one of the many things I love about this game.

"My wife Emily and I really love it here. We love the city, we love the energy, we love Yankee Stadium, we love going to Yankee Stadium and playing in that park every day. So that was really the most important thing. Then you look at the team and the New York Yankees are a team that has consistently put winning products on the field. I think with the Yankees in general, there will always be a chance to compete."

The Yankees quickly signed Rizzo on Tuesday after he declined to take the qualifying offer. There was a report that the Houston Astros – the Yankees’ ALCS vanquishers and the eventual World Series champions – wanted to sign Rizzo.

The Yankees, who have lost so many times to the Astros in recent years, did not let that happen.

Rizzo wouldn’t say if he spoke to the Astros, or any other specific team.

“Every team that reaches out is definitely taken into consideration,” Rizzo said. “I think as a player, when teams reach out to you in this process it makes you feel good. I feel like in this game you are told what you don’t do really well. Except in free agency, when teams call, they praise you. Each team that has reached out, I really appreciate their words. Just from respect on their end, I don’t want to go too deep into it, but appreciate the teams that did reach out.”

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