Cubs Find Their First Basemen

Cubs have traded RHP Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na to the San Diego Padres for 1B Anthony Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates. That should deflect from the Castro sexual allegations rumors just fine...the PR department will be thrilled.

As for the baseball move, generally a good idea to trade a young pitcher for a young position player and even better if you think that young pitcher won't stick in the rotation. So I like the deal. If Cashner becomes a top of the rotation arm though and Rizzo Hee-Seop Choi's it, I won't like it so much.

Have it in the comments on the other 2 guys that I know nothing about.

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I know this is a Cubs board, but I still am surprised at the board's decisiveness that giving up Cashner for Rizzo is a good move.

Rizzo is a 1b who definitely has flaws in his swing. I do believe he may end up as Carlos Pena, with less power -- .220-.240 with 20-25 HR. Of course, he might be better, but I remember watching him last year and thinking how overrated he was due to PCL stats; once pitchers found his flaws, he struggled.

Cashner was dominant as a starter in 2010 minors. He started last year and got hurt, so now it is decided he can't be a starter? Personally, I thought he had the best chance of becoming a number 1 starter of anyone in the entire system.

Certainly Cashner may have been just a reliever for the Cubs and maybe he couldn't adjust back to starting in 2012. But when a team is dropping payroll as fast as the Cubs, (i) trading for a 1B with an average hit tool who could become a power hitter rather than pursuing Fielder, and (ii) then giving up a pitcher with high upside in return and then stating we need to keep pursuing more starting pitchers, makes little sense to me as a whole. I like Brett Jackson, but I would have much rather given him than Cashner in this deal.

if cashner had more control and his shoulder hadn't been through some trouble i might be a bit more upset, myself.

i like the deal even more with the other kid picked up vs. the kid given up.

cubs are betting heavily on a power hitter that may not show up with all these gambles, though.

It's also partially about playing probabilities for me. I like Cashner. I think the guy can be top 5 closer, but with shoulder injuries like the ones he had at the age he had them, I don't think he'll ever start again. If I were in a front office, I wouldn't start him again. Too many questions about what kind of workload he can handle to risk it. But, he's got great stuff and a decent mechanic to go with it, which gives him a great deal of value.

If I can use that power arm with shoulder problems to get a guy that has a pretty decent chance of being a franchise cornerstone power hitter for the next few years, I'll do it. Yes, Rizzo strikes out more than we'd like, but he hits the piss out of the ball. Is he Pujols, Fielder, or Cabrera? No. Maybe he can be Fielder lite, but only time will tell on that. Even the chance of that happening makes it worth a wounded pitcher and a fast runner.

Cashner is a lucky guy to have a go-to car guy. I've been looking for a good mechanic for the longest time.

Wonder if he has an insurance guy too?

I'm crying 'uncle'. I'm not happy at all to what has happened, but there's obviously I can do very little about it. So I'm not going to complain or argue, and I'll just hope this works out before my Dad is dead.

Two things:

First, I like the trade that brought Rizzo to the Cubs. I think Cashner has the potential to be a solid bullpen arm, but I'd give up a bullpen arm any day of the week for a highly rated prospect position player.

However (and this is my second point), I don't think getting Rizzo should stop the Cubs from pursuing Fielder. Rizzo is a raw talent who may, in the next year or two, blossom into an everyday MLB first baseman. His PCL numbers are good, but he has struggled at the big league level. Others have commented on his swing. Rizzo has potential, but he is not a sure thing superstar.

On the other hand, Fielder has proven himself. There's no doubt about the kind of big league player he is going to be. The day you sign him, you know what he is going to do for you (at least for a while).

The same people who say that they don't want to sign Fielder because his performance MAY fall off in 4-5 years are the same ones giddy because the Cubs are apparently going all in on Rizzo, who MAY someday become a big league hitter. If you're going to take a risk, I'd rather take a risk that a proven commodity might stop performing somewhere down the line rather than bet that an unproven commodity might someday be good enough to do the job you need done.

If Fielder can be had for a reasonable number of years (5 or 6?), I think the Cubs should still go after him. He absolutely will be much more expensive than Rizzo, but he will also be much more of a sure thing.

Rizzo's gonna be in the majors next year or 2013 and there's nowhere else to play him. Signing Fielder just blocks him.

Having Fielder block Rizzo is only a problem if 1) Rizzo is good enough to play at the MLB level and 2) he plays as well or better than Fielder. That's not a given.

All I'm saying is that, although it appears Rizzo is going to be good, he's not a "can't miss" prospect. And I find it uncomfortable for a team spending $120 - $140 million on payroll to have to rely on a hope and a prayer to fill any roster spot.

If it turns out that Rizzo is the reincarnation of Lou Gehrig, then having Fielder block him would be a problem. Until then, I'd prefer that the Cubs have a lineup that is built on proven talent, not wishful thinking.

Another thought: I understand if a team like the Pirates or Royals have to rely on a prospect to fill a void. They can't afford to sign a top line player, so it makes since for them to wait until the prospect is ready. That's generally how small market teams operate.

But the Cubs are no small market team. There should never be a time when they punt a season or two with hopes that a prospect will progress and save them. I like Rizzo and hope he turns out to be a great ball player, but I hate the fact that the Cubs are apparently willing to wait for him to get ready to be their first baseman of the future. That's a gamble a large market team should not have to take.

In that second post it sounds like you are saying the Cubs ought to fill every spot with a proven MLB talent and should never rely on prospects to end up playing for the MLB club.

But I have a hard time believing that is what you are really saying. Am I misunderstanding?

you're never going to find out if Rizzo is good enough if you have nowhere to play him.

AAA only tells you so much, you need about 1000 MLB PA appearances imo.

If you want sustained success, the Cubs need to find a core of good young players and then build around it and then hopefully as they age, replace them with more good young players. The Cubs are trying to find that core first.

This is off the top of my head, but if you think of the teams that have had good runs of 7-10 years and where they started.

Yankees: started with Jeter, Williams, Pettite joined shortly by Posada,
Red Sox started with mostly FA's, but then turned that into Beckett, Pedroia, Lester, Youkilis
Braves: started with Glavine, Smoltz, Justice and added Chipper, Javy, Madduxx, A. Jones
Astros: Bagwell, Biggio and adding Berkman, Oswalt
Phillies: Howard, Utley, Rollins
Cards: Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen

anyway, that's sort of my memory of that...could be off on a few of them. But the Cubs aging corp of players isn't anywhere close to the playoffs the last 3 years so you really can't build on that. I think the Cubs were close recently, at first with Wood, Prior, Z, and were suppose to be joined with Choi and Patterson. That didn't work out and Hendry did a good job in flipping that to Ramirez, Lee, and Z, but Prior and Wood fucked that up and the window got smaller when they started to get good and Soriano and Co. were just short term answers. Soto looks more and more like just around average than any kind of cornerstone. I think Castro and Garza are a decent start, maybe adding Brett Jackson and Rizzo are that core they are looking for. I'm not sold that Jackson, Garza, Rizzo are that good, but I don't think JedStein are done yet either.

Fielder is great, certainly wouldn't have minded if they signed him, but they weren't going to compete with him this year without also signing 3-4 more overpriced and past their prime free agents. Then you just start the short term cycle of trying to patch holes while being in bad contracts that you can't move.

It's gonna be tough this year to watch, maybe even in 2013, but it was pretty tough to watch the last 2 years of them pretending they were competing.

I would have been cool with signing some guys to compete in the short term. Best case is that those guys can help you compete now. Then will be coming off the books as the new crop of Thoyer ML prospects are ready to take their place.

Either way we are in a "no mans land" right now at the MLB level. We don't have anything close to a competitive club. We don't have anything of note close to ready except for Bjax and Rizzo. So if we want to compete we are going to have to spend on the FA market.

That being the case I'd just assume they spend now and compete instead of punting 2012. Just my preference though.

I agree with you on Cashner, and I'm not entirely sold on Rizzo yet, but I think that all signs indicate Cubs management saw him as a power reliever. I thought he had the best chance to be an ace of any current Cubs prospect--but I thought the same thing about Marmol. So I tend to defer to the judgment of others on live young arms at this point.

That's a gamble a large market team should not have to take.
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The Redsox didn't make that gamble, using Rizzo plus to get AGon. Until the Cubs have more tradable prospects, it looks like we aren't able to work like that.

Jedstein approach...Cubs 2012, small market starter plan with eventual asset building upside to act like a big market team in 2013-4?

That's a good point, Cubster. But the Red Sox didn't punt a season or two while they waited for some prospects to mature. They went with Youkilis and V-Mart at 1B, and then used prospects to upgrade to AGon. The only purpose the prospect served was as a trade chip.

You are correct that the Cubs don't have the prospect depth to do what the Red Sox did, but that doesn't mean the only alternative is to stand pat and wait for the farm system to improve. They have money available and a FA that would fit their needs. There's no need to act like a small market team.

Unless the Cubs have some realistic expectation that Rizzo is going to be ready soon and is going to be comparable to Fielder, then I say sign Fielder (assuming the length of the contract is reasonable) and use Rizzo (or Fielder) as a trade chip down the road.

Again though it's one thing to say sign Fielder and another to do so for less than 10 years. Fielder with a 10 year contract is gonna be very hard to trade a few years down the road after his best baseball is behind him and be an albatross on this team if we keep him and trade Rizzo. If we can sign him for 7 years or less then sure I'd be all for it but I don't see that happening.

I doubt Theo hasn't made an attempt to sign Fielder but in the end you have to look at who the agent is and say is Theo really to blame if the signing doesn't happen?

Agreed. I'm not in favor of going 8-10 years. If the Cubs don't sign Fielder because someone else was silly enough to sign him for 8-10 years, then I won't have a problem with it. My frustration is with the idea that now that the Cubs have Rizzo, they don't need Fielder.

Rizzo would definitely be a trade chip if Fielder is signed. Anything's still possible.

as soon as Fielder signs, he'll be impossible to trade.

I think the Cubs' problem goes something like this:

In order to compete every year, you need to be able to produce gobs of MLB talent in one of the following ways: 1. Sign above-average free agents. 2. Trade for above-average players. 3. Develop above-average players through your system. That's obvious.

However, how much payroll did the Cubs have available to sign free agents? Quite a bit--but only after they shed a bunch of contracts and created huge holes in the roster. And then they had to pick from the free agents available. Do they really want CJ Wilson? Maybe not. Do they really want Edwin Jackson? Not unless he is the last piece needed to compete. Do they want Fielder? Yes. At 10 years? Probably not. Etc. So they end up with not true impact free agents. So nix option one.

Okay, option two. Trade for above average players. Okay. What do you trade? Prospects for vets. But who do the Cubs have that other teams want? Not much. Marshall, Zambrano to some degree, Soto and Marmol (but you'd be selling low on both). So option two only works out a little bit. You end up with Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, Ian Stewart, etc. Guys that you hope can be above average and are more valuable to you at this point than the guys you traded away, but they won't make you a contender. Looks like trading or impact players isn't an option. The Cubs would have to trade away Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt, etc., but do they even have enough prospects to put together a competitive team even if they did empty out the farm system? It seems doubtful.

So, instead, they have to go out and gather young talent. They trade off the proven vets to bring in young guys--which will, hopefully, allow them to gather more MLB talent than their competitors in 2013 and 2014. But in the meantime, they have to wait and watch their crops grow.

They also have to try to rid themselves of as much dead payroll as necessary, and not overburden themselves with long-term contracts on players they don't love, so that they are not handcuffed financially when there are two or three top free agents that they really want either because they are the guys or because the team is ready to cut a swathe through the NL Central.

I don't think the Cubs are moving into a long period where all they do is gamble on young guys. I think they are simply trying to build up assets (Jedstein loves this term) because right now the team is near talent-bankruptcy. Jedstein clearly sees this as a team that needs a complete remodeling, not a little bit of interior decorating. They've made a ton of moves already in the first two months of control, and it looks to be far from over. The 2013 Cubs will probably look nothing like the 2011 Cubs. Whether it could be done faster or differently is obviously up for debate by us baseball theorists, but I don't think that Jedstein's current approach is at all mysterious. They clearly have a plan, and it is obviously a long-term plan.

Well put.
All this.

True to an extent, and your analysis is what I hoped would happen. But the Cashner for Rizzo deal doesn't fit this trend -- I actually would have been happier if we did this deal for a veteran like Dempster than trading Cashner. I don't mean to imply that the Padres would have done this deal for Dempster, but rather that if we are going to build through getting prospects, I would much rather acquire those prospects for veterans than prospects of our own.

Me too. But on the Rizzo deal, I think Jedstein saw an opportunity to pick up a legitimate slugging prospect and a potential starter or power arm for the pen for a bullpen guy (I think that's how they saw Cashner) and a guy who would be lucky to make the majors as a 4th outfielder. If you look at Cashner as a reliever and Cates as a potential starter, the Cubs dealt from depth (bullpen, CF) to acquire in areas of weakness (power-hitting 1B, SP). That's just a win.

Of course, it's always possible that Cashner becomes an ace and Rizzo flares out. In which case I will cry.

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