Cubs Acquire Anthony Rizzo From Padres

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer continued their makeover of the Chicago Cubs roster by acquiring first baseman Anthony Rizzo and minor-league pitcher Zach Cates from the San Diego Padres for pitcher Andrew Cashner and minor league outfielder Kyung-Min Na. Cashner is 25 year old former first round draft pick who has great stuff, but one who has struggled with injuries and control in his time with Cubs. Rizzo is a familiar player for Epstein and Hoyer as the Red Sox drafted him when Epstein was GM and was acquired by the Padres during Hoyer’s tenure as Padres’ GM as a major player in the Adrian Gonzales trade. Rizzo’s 2011 was mixed, as he combined a breakout year in Triple-A with a horrendous cup of coffee in San Diego as he “hit” .141/.281/.242 in 153 plate appearances. Given the horror that Petco Park is for left-handed sluggers, the move to Wrigley Field should sit well with Rizzo.

Despite his struggles at the big league level last year, Rizzo has rocketed through the minor leagues reaching Double-A as a 20 year old and seeing the majors at age 21. Rizzo’s 2011 was one of the best offensive seasons in the Pacific Coast League despite him being the youngest everyday player in the league at age 21. As Noah Isaacs demonstrated nicely, very few players make it to AAA at such a tender age. A quick look at the new minor league leaderboards demonstrate that most of the best offensive performers in the PCL last year were several years older than Rizzo. In fact, the offensive performance that most closely mirrors Rizzo’s was that of Cubs farmhand and fellow first baseman Bryan LaHair. As the table below demonstrates, the only significant difference between Rizzo and LaHair last year was age, with Rizzo looking like a prospect and LaHair profiling as a classic AAAA hitter.


Name Team Age G AB PA H 2B HR BB% AVG K% OBP SLG OPS BABIP wOBA
Bryan Lahair Cubs (AAA) 28 129 456 523 151 38 38 11.5 0.331 21.2 0.405 0.664 1.07 0.361 0.443
Anthony Rizzo Padres (AAA) 21 93 356 413 118 34 26 10.4 0.331 21.5 0.404 0.652 1.056 0.369 0.433

By acquiring Rizzo, Epstein and company seemingly contradict Epstein’s insistence on Wednesday that he does not believe in the concept of AAAA hitters, as the Cubs have little need for two slugging first basemen. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says that Rizzo will start the year in Triple-A, but it seems clear that the Cubs see Rizzo as their first baseman of the future, with that future likely beginning sometime during the 2012 season. LaHair will make for a cheap insurance policy in the event that Rizzo’s 2011 power surge (he had never slugged more than .500 until last year) was a fluke. This is a minor quibble, as there is much to like about this trade if you are a Cubs fan. Cashner may evolve into a useful reliever for the Padres, but relievers are fungible. Trading a reliever with injury and control problems for a young, slugging first baseman is almost always a good idea.

The acquisition of Rizzo means that the Cubs are now officially out of the Prince Fielder derby and fully in rebuilding mode. As I noted in an earlier piece, the Cubs roster needs a major overhaul, not just minor tweaks in order to be competitive. The trade for Rizzo, the dumping of Carlos Zambrano, and the trade rumors surrounding Alfonso Soriano and Matt Garza suggest that Epstein and Hoyer are wasting little time beginning to rebuild the Cubs roster.




Print This Post



I am political science professor at the University of North Carolina. I grew up watching the Braves on TBS and acquired Red Sox fandom during the 1986 World Series. My other hobbies include cooking, good red wine, curing meats, and obsessing over Alabama football---Roll Tide! Follow me on Twitter @ProfJRoberts.


47 Responses to “Cubs Acquire Anthony Rizzo From Padres”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the
RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Diesel says:

    How sure are we that the Padres don’t think Cashner’s a starter in the long run?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Jimjam says:

    Pretty sure – I doubt the Padres FO has the mental capacity to ‘think’. What a ridiculous trade. There are skinny teenagers in prison who don’t get abused as much as Byrnes did here…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Doogolas33 says:

    They’ve already said he’s going to be in the pen.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Norm says:

    They said he’s going to start in the ‘pen, which he should because of lack of innings, but I’d imagine they HAVE to think Cashner is a starter in 2013…I mean, they have to, to give up a top 50 prospect!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Oscar says:

    I wish Mike Rizzo had gotten in on this action. A Detwiler for ARizzo swap would have made perfect sense for the Nats as a long-term answer at 1B, allowing ARizzo to break in slowly and take over at the trade deadline when Laroche gets shipped out of town.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • willl says:

      Agreed so much.

      I bet all the fans of the other 28 teams are wishing their GM went after Rizzo if all it took was an injury plagued, middle relief, former prospect.

      I wonder if HRod would have been enough?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. baty says:

    I can’t imagine the Padres even considering this deal if they didn’t think Cashner had a legitimate shot to move back into a starting role. He’ll be a project for sure… The most work he received as a SP in a season was 24 games started in 2009 for 100IP between A+ and AA.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Socrates says:

      Why trade Rizzo – a top tier prospect AND a lower tier prospect for a “project”. It makes no sense.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • baty says:

        who knows… It made no sense to rush Rizzo out of town like that.

        If the Padres never bought into Rizzo as their future first baseman, then I don’t understand why they couldn’t settle a deal last June when his perceived value was at its highest, or wait until this June after racking up some more solid numbers in the PCL. If they did buy into his future, but allowed his 2011 MLB debut to sour their attitude that much, then I don’t get it. Maybe every other GM they worked with didn’t buy into Rizzo this much either, but I find that hard to believe.

        It’s really about Yonder Alonso… There’s no way a deal this surprising receives consideration if he isn’t around, and for some reason they let the situation make Rizzo expendable.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • JayT says:

        Don’t forget there’s the fact that the Padres’ front office of last year is largely in Chicago now. If Hoyer likes Rizzo a lot, then it wouldn’t have made any sense for him to deal him last year, but it would make a lot of sense for him to go and get him for his new team.

        IMO, one real big plus side for the Cubs in this trade, is that the Cubs front office probably knew more about Rizzo then the Padres’ front office did, and they probably had a better grasp on what his ultimate ceiling is.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • ValueArb says:

        I’ll cross post this from the other thread.

        Rizzo crushes it in a massive hitters park closer to the moon than earth and suddenly he’s a cant miss prospect? The number of busted prospects who crushed it in the PCL west is long and undistinguished. Collin Cowgill hit almost as well as Rizzo last year.

        I think this trade looks much better for the Padres viewed with the idea that Rizzo’s OPS would likely have been 100-200 pts lower in the international league. Rizzo is a good prospect, but the fact that Cashner was all the padres could get for him tells you how wary the rest of the league is with PCL sluggers.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jack Weiland says:

        “Collin Cowgill, who is a full three years older, hit almost as good as Rizzo last year.”

        – 1st edit, JMW

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • ValueArb says:

        Sure, and Cowgill is also a 5’9″ 180 lb outfielder. I’m not saying Rizzo isn’t a good prospect, but the evidence is that MLB teams don’t buy his PCL West inflated 2011hitting stats. Tucson as a team actually didn’t hit any better than Iowa did, so maybe they’ve done something to the park (or maybe the Padres just had a terrible hitting team), But based on the parks history, and assuming that lots of Rizzos road ABs came in Reno, Las Vegas and Sacramento (I have no clue on how to get his game log), park adjustments say he wasn’t nearly the hitter LaHair was last year. Keeping Rizzo in Iowa to start the year is the Cub’s smartest plan, if he takes a step forward and crushes the ball there, great, if not, give him a year.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TLD says:

        Rizzo also hit very well in Portland and Pawtucket when he was still in the Boston system.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Daniel says:

        Well the “project” does pitch 100 plus MPH fastballs. If he doesn’t pan out as a starter he could end up as a closer.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Marver says:

      “Part of the reason for the trade was because GM Josh Byrnes said he wanted to avoid the ‘quarterback controversy’ that the team was facing heading into spring training if Rizzo was still around to compete with Yonder Alonso.”

      Byrnes doesn’t come off as the type of GM where we can make logical assumptions based on the action itself. It is entirely possible the Padres consider Cashner both a project and a reliever.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • willl says:

        Holy crap. That’s a real quote??

        The guy doesn’t believe it’s beneficial to have depth and competition at different positions? I’d be terrified if I were a Padres fan.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • ValueArb says:

        I’m sure he does like to have competition. But Byrnes seems to have gotten more adept at “sportswriter speak” as he’s gotten more experience, so I tend to discount stuff like this, not knowing if he said that to hit the sweet spot with a local columnist, or if he really believes it.

        I will say sitting Rizzo in Tucson another year doesn’t make sense, it’s almost the opposite situation of the Cubs. He’s proven all he can in that park and would need to prove it in Petco, but if the Padres preferred to give those ABs to Alonzo then it’s probably better to move Rizzo. You could argue another PCL fueled hitting spree might get a better return, but it just seems like teams don’t want to pay up for Rizzo.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Socrates says:

    Mike Rizzo probably thought it would be totally ridiculous for the Padres to accept Detwiler in a trade for Rizzo. Little did he know that he could have also packaged a completely worthless minor league OF along with Detwiler and also got back a Tier B pitching prospect along with Rizzo.

    This is one of the most ridiculous trades I have ever seen. Kazmir for (Victor…) Zambrano is about the same level. Anyone defending this is either a Cubs fan or completely clueless.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Steve says:

    As a life-long Cubs hater I just threw up a little in my mouth.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Anders says:

    I guess one could quibble over “everyday”, but Brett Lawrie is 4.5 months younger than Rizzo and played the first half of the season in the PCL before going out for a month with a broken hand then getting promoted.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. JDanger says:

    USA! USA! USA! USA!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. bin says:

    Holy hell, the Cubs are gonna be a minor league club for a few years. Good luck with ticket sales…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JohnnyComeLately says:

      Ticket sales will be fine. It’s Wrigley Field. It may not be a sell out every game like when they’re contenders, but they’ll have plenty of butts in seats during the summer months.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Math Nerd says:

        I agree with you totally JonnyComeLately…

        Anybody who thinks the Cubs can’t sell tickets hasn’t been to Wrigley in the summer.

        For those that don’t know, Chicago in the summer is a blast and the area surrounding Wrigley is as action packed as anywhere else in the city.

        My ex is from Michigan and hates sorts, but even she got sucked in. We used to walk to the games from Bucktown drinking juice boxes full of wine on the way.

        Rightly or wrongly (Sox fans- I already know what you’re going to say), being a Cubs fan is one of the cool things to be.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • 11thWS says:

        ‘contenders’ and cubs should not be used in the same sentence.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Chad says:

    Padres are making some strange trades.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. JWO says:

    I’m not a Cubs fan, but this move feels right. Epstein is clearing the decks, and Rizzo could be a nice long-term piece. Theo thinks he has a good bead on this player. I guess we shall see. At least we will in two to three years…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • 11thWS says:

      Didn’t he give him away in a trade already? 2nd times a charm?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Giff says:

        You’re forgetting that the Cubs hired Jed Hoyer from the Padres as GM.

        Epstein didn’t trade Rizzo away.
        Hoyer (Epstein’s former 2nd in charge in Boston) traded FOR him.

        They both, apparently, love the kid.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Paul says:

    You guys are a little off with the talk of Cubs attendance. Last year, they couldn’t give tickets away in April and May. They actually had ticket incentives for the first time in years. Once the summer comes, things are fine but the first couple months during the week will be rough.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Don Cooper says:

      Sorry, they had 3,000,000+ in paid attendance last year. They have no problems putting idiots in the seats…or at least buying the seats (when they turn out to be really terrible, they often get unused…scalpers can’t give them away hardly).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Chas says:

        “They have no problems putting idiots in the seats”

        Come on, most people don’t go to Cubs games to see a winning team, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Going to Cubs games is fun — it really is, not to mention a convenient excuse for alcoholism.

        Yeah, it’d be nice if they won, but most fans will continue to show up.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Lima bean says:

        The point is attendance will be the lowest it’s been in a long time. Scalpers will catch on and stop buying them.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • JDanger says:

        It should be noted also that the impressive “paid attendance” does not mean the park was devoid of empty seats at game time. Wrigley sells a good chunk of it’s tickets to 3rd-party “brokering” agencies that then try to flip those tickets to the gen pop at an inflated rate. This was a very profitable de facto scalping system up until 2011.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Pete Rose HOF 2012 says:

    What an absolute steal for the cubbies. Epstein traded Rizzo last year in the Adrian Gonz trade and then gets him back for… Andrew Cashner???? Are u serious???

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Baltar says:

    The Latos trade looked good for the Padres because of all the prospects. Now, for the second trade in a row, they have traded prospects for mediocrities.
    Does this team have any idea of what it is trying to accomplish?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Atari says:

    Stay with me, what if Byrnes believes he can build up Cashner’s value to a poor man’s Mat Latos and then flip him for another package of 3 to 4 prospects down the road? If in a few years he has shiny Petco-aided numbers, inside a power pitching frame and with such a big arm, he might get someone else to bite. Na is a cheap, defensive 4 th OF type in Petco who will be useful as a pinch runner and defensive replacement in the OF.

    Look, I get the criticism. The perceived return in value was not enough for a top 50 hitting power prospect.

    Still, I think if Byrnes is going to be successful in San Diego I do expect him to take some unorthodox turns. I’m sort of a contrarian by nature and a place like SD requires a GM who will think out of the box a bit in order to be successful. Now, whether Byrnes will be successful or not is a different question. I at least applaud the approach and risk taking.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Steve Lidd says:

    What am I missing here? This is the second article I’ve seen that says Epstein is contradicting himself by saying he doesn’t believe in the concept of AAAA hitters and then making this trade 2 days later. But that 4A hitter LaHair will be replaced at the MLB level by Rizzo. So how is that a contradiction? Isn’t it a confirmation?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Chas says:

      I’m not sure what you mean by a confirmation, but I agree that there’s no contradiction, and see no inconsistency on Theo’s part. He sees no point in making distinctions between types of hitters – just guys with better and worse OBPs, ISOs, etc., and he doesn’t think Lahair can hit as well as Rizzo.

      I doubt age or career arc has little to do with it, besides of course for the fact that Rizzo projects to improve more than Lahair.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • MC says:

        Actually I disagree with you. I think Theo made the LaHair comment to make it seem as though they weren’t desperate to get Rizzo. You really can’t make a judgment about a player based on how much he will “improve”. For instance if LaHair hits let’s say at a .950 OPS, he doesn’t NEED to improve. The same idea is if let’s say LaHair starts out at an .820 OPS, he doesn’t need to improve all that much to be valuable.

        But there is a certain inconsistency because LaHair and Rizzo can’t both play 1B. So on the one hand he’s in favor of LaHair and then, goes and gets a player who will replace LaHair.

        It’s still a great fantastic trade for the Cubs but I do hope they give LaHair at least 300AB’s, at any position.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • samuelLsamson says:

      You’re correct. What those articles maybe should be saying is that Epstein may be contradicting himself by saying LaHair will be the Cubs’ first baseman for 2012 then trading for Rizzo. Not buying into the AAAA idea still stands; he just likes Rizzo more than LaHair, and I doubt it’ll take all season for that to be reflected in terms of playing time.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. MC says:

    Obviously this is an incredibly lopsided trade for the Cubs but I hope this doesn’t deprive LaHair of opportunities, even if that means LaHair moving to the OF. It just really, really bothers me when people are not rewarded for their efforts because of incumbency or other reasons.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>