With the recent acquisition of Yonder Alonso, the first baseman of the future suddenly changed for the San Diego Padres. Anthony Rizzo was acquired in the December 2010 trade of Padres All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. He was considered a key piece to the deal, if not the primary target for the Padres. The Padres also received Casey Kelly and Reymond Fuentes from the Boston Red Sox, but Rizzo was considered the center piece of the deal.
Immediately after the Mat Latos trade, I questioned what was going on. I liked what I saw from Rizzo, he was very raw, but you could tell he was the real deal. Why did the Padres trade for another first baseman? I looked into Alonso’s numbers and saw the Reds had him playing the outfield too. I found some tape on him in the outfield and came to the realization that he couldn’t play there everyday at the major league level. Something was going on in Padre-land, and it took less than a month to find out exactly what was up.
On January 6, 2012 the Padres sent the 21-year old Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Andrew Cashner and Kyung Min Na. With the addition of Yonder Alonso and the season he had in 2011 for the Reds, Anthony Rizzo was deemed expendable. Rizzo had 128 at bats with the Padres in 2011, he was obviously in over his head at the time. In 49 games Rizzo hit .141 and only managed one home run and nine RBI’s while striking out a whopping 46 times. He was however only 21, and obviously needed a little more conditioning at the minor league level.
Andrew Cashner was the Cubs first round pick (19th overall) in the 2010 draft. Cashner had been used out of the bullpen for the Cubs thus far, but had the arm to be successful in a major league rotation. Cashner was 2-6 with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.415 WHIP in 64 relief appearances for the Cubs, he had made only one start for them. The trade at the time looked pretty even, but the youth and upside of Rizzo could taint this deal heavily towards the Cubs.
At the time of the deal you could understand the thinking of Padres G.M. Josh Byrnes. Alonso looked to be the more major league ready of the two potential first baseman. Rizzo struggled mightily in his debut with the Padres, however he did put up astonishing numbers in Triple-A. Hitting .331 with 34 doubles, 26 home runs and driving in 101 runs in only 93 games. Those are incredible numbers for a 21-year old! Perhaps the Padres G.M. should have exercised some more patience when dealing with Anthony Rizzo.
Anthony Rizzo has easily outperformed Andrew Cashner thus far in their major league careers. It’s difficult to crunch numbers between a position player and a pitcher, but let us take a look. Cashner thus far in his major league career has a record of 20-26 in 51 starts, and 92 relief appearances. He owns a career ERA of 3.25 and a career WHIP of 1.196. In those 409 innings pitched, Cashner has struck out 331 batters. Impressive numbers for Cashner, but his problem has been staying healthy. His most innings pitched in a season are 175 from 2013 when with the Padres. Last season Cashner battled arm issues and only managed 123.1 innings pitched. The ability is there for the six-foot six-inch Texan, he just hasn’t been able to stay off the disabled list.
Anthony Rizzo has taken off as a Chicago Cub, and looks to be a fixture in their lineup for years to come. The 2012 season, his first in a Cub uniform, Rizzo was to start the season in triple-A Iowa. He hit .342 with 23 homers and 62 RBI’s in 257 at bats. The Cubs immediately promoted him to the majors and he has been there ever since. He finished the 2012 season, his rookie year, with a .285/.342/.463 batting line. In 87 games for the Cubs, Anthony Rizzo hit 15 home runs and drove in 48 runners. Easily outperforming what the Padres got from Yonder Alonso in 2012 (155 games 9 homers, 62 RBI’s and a .273 batting average).
The numbers for Rizzo are only getting better, and he was rewarded by the Cubs with a franchise friendly 7 year extension at $41-million dollars. The Cubs own the right to Rizzo all the way through the 2020 and 2021 seasons, with two team options at $14.5 million per year. He looks to be a Cub for a long time to come. Cashner thus far in his 4-year career has amassed a 4.6 WAR number. That’s an average of 1.15 Wins Above Replacement in his career. Anthony Rizzo has totaled a 9.7 WAR in four major league seasons. That’s an average of 2.4 Wins Above Replacement. Rizzo totaled a 5.1 War last year alone in his break-out year. Rizzo has the baseball analytic edge too.
In Anthony Rizzo’s career he has a .254/.345/.450 batting line with 71 home runs and 215 runs batted in. He has displayed a solid glove at first base and more importantly he has displayed the type of leadership you want out of a young player. The Chicago Cubs are Anthony Rizzo’s team.
The 2014 All-Star is a former cancer survivor as well. In 2008 while playing in the Red Sox minor league system, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. That type of diagnosis can make most people quit, but Rizzo battled the disease and never once gave up. That is the type of person you want leading your team. He knows what it is like to have true hardship, you think losing a game or striking out three times a game bothers him for long? Baseball is a hard sport to play, you need to have a short memory in order to succeed. Rizzo has all the intangibles to be a successful major league ball player for a long time.
When I think about the potential of having Anthony Rizzo in the Padres lineup, I cringe. Anthony Rizzo hitting in between Matt Kemp and Justin Upton would be a lethal trio. We can only dream about that lineup, as it is only that, a dream. The trade completed a little over three years ago, was a win for the Cubs. It isn’t horribly lopsided, but Rizzo looks to be a perennial All-Star while Cashner is spinning his wheels. The bottom line is Cashner needs to stay healthy to justify the deal for the Padres. If he isn’t out there throwing, then the deal is a complete failure. Cashner still has plenty of time to turn things around. At the age of 28, Cashner could be a late bloomer, Padres fans can only hope that is the case.