If we learned anything from Jed Hoyer’s stay in San Diego, trading with him probably isn’t the best idea. With the likes of Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod as reinforcements, it doesn’t help matters.
On Friday, Josh Byrnes and the San Diego Padres traded first basemen Anthony Rizzo and right hander Zach Cates to Hoyer and the Cubs for right-handed reliever Andrew Cashner and center fielder Kyung-Min Na.
When the Padres acquired first basemen Yonder Alonso as part of the Mat Latos trade, Anthony Rizzo was immediately expendable. While there’s certainly debate about who will be better, Alonso or Rizzo, it was obvious that the current regime liked Alonso’s bat as a better long-term fit. He’s more polished at this point and has had major league success, and he may be better suited for Petco.
Rizzo struggled mightily in 153 plate appearances with the Padres last season, hitting .141/.281/.242. He struck out in 30 percent of his PAs. Still, 150 major league PAs do not negate over 1,500 in the minors. Further, Rizzo had one of his finest overall years in 2011, hitting .331/.404/.652 in Triple-A Tucson. He pounded 61 extra-base hits in 93 games.
Despite the major league hiccup, Rizzo was still a consensus top 10 prospect in the Padres system this offseason. In fact, he was recently rated as the number one prospect in a highly-regarded system by Baseball America and John Sickels.
Some are still concerned with how Rizzo’s offensive game will transfer to the big leagues. As Kevin Goldstein notes, he’s struggled against lefties, he has a hitch in his swing, and he tends to get pull happy. Further, left-handed pull power probably isn’t the best fit for Petco Park. Though that’s not a reason to dismiss a prospect, it may have helped vault the more well-rounded Alonso ahead of Rizzo on the organizational depth chart.
Warts and all, Rizzo will have a chance to excel for the rebuilding Cubs, and he’ll get full support from a front office who believes in him. Jed Hoyer has now acquired him twice, once with the Padres for Adrian Gonzalez and now with the Cubbies. Theo dealt him to the Padres, but he received Adrian Gonzalez in return, so we can’t blame him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Rizzo turn into a solid everyday starter at some point in 2012.
The Padres also gave up right-handed starter Zach Cates. Cates, drafted under Hoyer and McLeod in the third round of the 2010 amateur draft, pitched 118 innings at Single-A Fort Wayne last season. He posted a 4.73 ERA and walked four per nine, but he struck out an encouraging 22 percent. He also surrendered only four home runs.
The former catcher isn’t highly-rated in the Padres current system, but he’s a little more than just throw-in. Drafted in the third round, reportedly with solid mechanics and stuff (with less wear and tear than most pitchers), and a solid debut campaign make him an intriguing lower level prospect.
The main piece acquired by San Diego is reliever Andrew Cashner. This offseason, Kevin Goldstein rated Cashner fourth on the Cubs under-25 top ten list, ahead of all but two of their current top ten prospects (and Starlin Castro). He said:
Cashner has looked good stuff-wise in his return from injuries, but he’s likely bullpen-only at this point, and his command is far from all the way back.
The Twitter-verse has already confirmed that Cashner will be used in the pen next season, with a chance to develop into a starter (so says Byrnes). It sounds like he’s better off in the bullpen, where he can reportedly touch 100 on the radar gun.
Cashner threw a total of 15 and a third innings in 2011, between the Cubs and the minor leagues, thanks to shoulder issues all season long. In 2010, he pitched 54 and a third innings for the Cubs out of the pen, striking out 8.3 and walking five per nine. His HR/9 was 1.3.
Drafted four times, Cashner finally signed with the Cubs after being selected 18th overall in the 2008 amateur draft. He spent his first three years in the minor leagues working primarily out of the rotation, until he was called up in 2010. He had mixed results as a starter.
In 2009, he pitched 100 and a third innings in High-A and Double-A to a 2.60 ERA, but he K’ed only 18 percent. He did only gave up one homer. His strikeout rate jumped to 27 percent in 2010 in 59 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Again, he allowed just one homer.
In 182 minor league innings, Cashner allowed an off-the-charts good three home runs. He struck out two batters for every walk, and posted a 2.82 ERA. Cashner was well-regarded in the minors: Kevin Goldstein rated him as the fifth best Cubs prospect in 2010 and he cracked Baseball America’s top 100 that same year.
Injury concerns plus, as Goldstein notes, a high-effort delivery and low minor league pitch counts as a starter lead many to believe he’ll end up in the pen, which is where he’s been with the Cubs and where he’ll start as the Padres. The chance that he’ll develop into a starter is always there, but for now we have to view him as a reliever.
Big velocity with the fastball and a solid slider, combined with solid groundball and home run rates, will give Cashner a chance to be devastating in the back of the Padres pen. Petco will help the home run issues he had in the majors in 2010. Cashner is arbitration eligible in 2013 and will reach free agency in 2017, according to Cot’s Contracts (he’s a super-two). edit: there are conflicting reports as to Cahsner’s super-two status.
The Padres also acquired center fielder Kyung-Min Na. The 20-year-old was excellent in Rookie Ball in 2011, hitting .360/.453/.450 in 119 plate appearances. He quickly advanced to Low-A ball where he hit .171/.276/.184 in 88 PAs. In Single-A he rebounded some, hitting .258/.333/.303 in 100 PAs.
That short stint in Rookie Ball in the lone bright spot in an otherwise underwhelming early track record. Na has recorded just 16 extra base hits in 519 minor league plate appearances. He’s still young and I suppose offers some upside, but he has a lot to prove before one can think of him as a legit prospect.
If the Padres were a competitive team with a hole in the back of the pen, this deal would be understandable, if not favorable. They aren’t expected to compete, however, and they’ve been able to pick up solid relievers off the scrap heap for years now, thanks to good scouting/coaching and generous Petco Park.
Rizzo was expendable, but there was really no rush to trade the 22-year-old. If he performed well in Triple-A again, surely a contending team in need of some pop would come along and offer a package better than Cashner/Na. Let’s not forget the Padres had to include Cates, who probably has a better long-term outlook at this point than Na.
This move may help the Padres in 2012, but it won’t help them much long-term. A late-inning reliever, even one as potentially dominant as Cashner, isn’t what they should be shopping for right now, especially if it involves dealing away an everyday player as potentially valuable as Rizzo.