Cubs bet their future on Rizzo, deal Cashner to Padres

Cubs bet their future on Rizzo, deal Cashner to Padres
January 6, 2012, 7:16 pm
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Kerry Wood once waved off the comparisons to Andrew Cashner, another Texan who could go 100 mph, by telling the media: Dont do that to him.

Anthony Rizzo was supposed to replace Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego. Now hell be the first baseman the Cubs targeted instead of Prince Fielder.

Its never quite that simple, and probably unfair to the centerpieces in Fridays four-player trade between the Cubs and Padres. But as Cashner was saying over the phone on Friday night: Everything happens for a reason.

The Cubs dropped so many hints they werent going to be handing out a megadeal this winter. Theo Epsteins plan is to collect as many young players as possible, and the rebuilding process will take years.

One year ago, the marketing machine had Cashner, Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro as the Cubs of the future. Colvin like Cashner, a former first-round pick has already been traded to the Rockies. Castros camp was responding to Fridays reports about an alleged sexual assault.

Back home in Texas, Cashner had finished his workout when he was surprised by a phone call from assistant general manager Randy Bush. Cashner and minor-league outfielder Kyung-Min Na were traded to San Diego for Rizzo and another prospect, right-hander Zach Cates.

The Cubs will always be in my heart, Cashner said. Things would be different had I not gotten hurt last year, but I cant control that. Its a business.

A rotator cuff strain wiped out almost all of Cashners 2011 season, though he says hes now 100 percent. The Cubs projected him as a power arm out of the bullpen not a frontline starter and were willing to trade that piece for a potential left-handed run producer in Rizzo.

While the new administration wasnt as attached to Cashner, Cubs executives are in love with the 22-year-old Rizzo, a sixth-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2007 draft.

Back then scouting guru Jason McLeod and general manager Jed Hoyer worked for Epstein in Boston. They moved on to San Diego and brought over Rizzo in the Gonzalez deal 13 months ago.

Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in 2008 and beat that while developing into one of the games top prospects.

Overcoming cancer was incredibly impressive, Hoyer said, but I think its a mistake if you just allude to his makeup (that way). Hes a very strong person. Hes a leader and hes someone (who can) help put our team on the right path as far as our culture.

It sounds like that wont come by Opening Day 2012. Hoyer expects Rizzo to begin the year at Triple-A Iowa, which right now would make Bryan LaHair your first baseman.

Rizzo began the 2011 season by hitting .365 with 16 homers and 63 RBI in his first 52 Triple-A games to earn the promotion. In 128 at-bats in the big leagues last season, he hit .141 with 46 strikeouts.

To be candid, I dont think I did Anthony any favors when I was GM of the Padres, Hoyer said. We called him up because we werent getting any first-base production in San Diego and it was too early and it was a mistake on my part.

Rizzo became expendable when the Padres acquired Yonder Alonso from Cincinnati in the Mat Latos deal last month. He will be given every opportunity in Chicago, along with Ian Stewart, Travis Wood and Chris Volstad. Well see if Cubs fans have the patience for this.

Theres no doubt that with young talent comes an adjustment period, Hoyer said. The best players get through (it) and they take off. (Once they) get past that, they can really explode. Young players (have) growing pains, theres no question about that. (But) thats something were prepared to deal with.

The only way to be a really great organization is to be willing to go through (it) to get the reward at the end of that tunnel.