The Yankees' Anthony Rizzo is greeted in the dugout after...

The Yankees' Anthony Rizzo is greeted in the dugout after his two-run home run against the Blue Jays during the sixth inning of an MLB game at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 9, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

TAMPA, Fla. – Late Sunday night brought one of the biggest surprises of the Yankees’ offseason – news that Gary Sanchez, along with Gio Urshela, had been dealt to the Twins.

Late Tuesday night brought news that wasn’t a surprise at all – word the Yankees were bringing back Anthony Rizzo, an occurrence that became a near lock after Matt Olson, the club’s top choice at first base for 2022, was dealt to Atlanta from Oakland (the A’s wanted a significant haul of top prospects, including touted shortstop Anthony Volpe, from the Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wasn’t willing to part with). The Yankees had an interest in Freddie Freeman, a big-ticket free-agent item still on the market, but ultimately what he is looking for – in dollars and years – made him a highly unlikely signing from the start of free agency.

Rizzo signed a two-year, $32-million deal with an opt-out after the first year, terms first reported by ESPN.

The pivot back to Rizzo makes it even more likely Luke Voit, whom the Yankees unsuccessfully tried to deal before last year’s trade deadline after they brought Rizzo over from the Cubs, will see his time in pinstripes come to an end.

The 32-year-old Rizzo provided an instant upgrade at the position after his arrival last season, both in the field and at the plate, his lefty bat giving the lineup some much-needed balance. But after a blistering start in the Bronx, Rizzo was never quite the same offensively after a bout with COVID-19, hitting .249 with eight homers and a .768 OPS in 49 games.

Stanton to get more games in OF

Get ready to see more of Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield.

It’s the way Stanton has always wanted it and now, apparently, the Yankees do as well.

"I think a decent amount," Aaron Boone said, when asked how much outfield he envisioned Stanton playing this season.

The Yankees have said that plenty in the past, then rarely put Stanton in the field. But they broke the seal on the slugger participating on defense last July 30 in an interleague game in Miami against the Marlins – starting him in leftfield – the first of 26 games Stanton played in the field (he also saw time in right) the rest of the way

Stanton, who hit .273 with an .870 OPS in 139 total games last season, hit .343 with a 1.065 OPS in 10 games in leftfield last season and hit .279 with a .968 OPS in 16 games in right.

"It, obviously, went really well last year," Boone said of Stanton in the field. "It was something that he wanted to do and I think he was probably even pleasantly surprised to how his body was responding. Whether it’s two days, three days a week, I don’t have that planned yet."

Stanton said "a couple of times a week" would be fine by him.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "Kept me moving around. Wasn’t kind of the start-stop routine of DH’ing so I enjoyed it."

A dream fulfilled

New shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, speaking for the first time since the Yankees acquired him Sunday night in the trade in which Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela went to the Twins, beamed as he spoke to the media.

"Growing up, it was my favorite team," Kiner-Falefa said. "I didn't tell any other teams that, that's a red flag if you go in another clubhouse and say you want to be a Yankee."

Why did he pick No. 12?

"Every number’s retired," Kiner-Falefa, who named Derek Jeter as his favorite player, said with a laugh. "And that’s a good thing. I’m a baseball freak. I love the history of this game. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, just to name a few. It’s surreal for me just to be able to look around and see [that history] every day I put this jersey on. I’m not there to get followers [on social media] or anything like that, I’m here to win. This is where I want to be."

Sevy shines

Luis Severino, who came back late last September after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February 2020, threw a crisp two-inning simulated game on the main field and, Boone indicated, could get one of the first starts by a rotation member when the Grapefruit League season starts. It won’t be Friday or Saturday as Boone indicated those games will be pitched by those expected to start the season in the minors, but it could come soon after that.

"He’s probably our most ahead pitcher as far as getting ready to go," Boone said. "I feel like he’s on a mission to go out and really reestablish himself as one of the great starters in this league."

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