The Cubs got their first baseman of the future today, dealing for a player very familiar to the new front office regime in Chicago; first baseman Anthony Rizzo. In total the Cubs received Rizzo and right-hander Zach Cates from the Padres for right-hander Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na.
Rizzo was one of the top prospects in the Boston Red Sox system while Theo Epstein was in charge, before being dealt to San Diego as part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade; where new Senior Vice President for Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod became familiar with him.
Rizzo struggled in his big league debut in 2011, hitting just .141 in 49 games for the Padres. Even with those struggles he still offers plus to plus-plus power potential and a good glove at first base. His offense should be helped by a move to the friendly confines and he has the potential to be a middle of the order bopper for the Cubs for years to come.
Cates rounds out the package for the Cubs and he offers big time arm strength having run his fastball up to the mid-90s with some life. A converted catcher he has taken to the mound quickly and developed feel for a change-up that shows above-average potential at times. His breaking ball is still a work in progress.
He has a good frame (6-3, 200) and clean arm action that helps him maintain his velocity deep into his pitch counts and could keep him in the rotation long term. Still a bit of a project, Cates has a chance to be a back of the rotation arm or seventh inning reliever.
The headliner for the Padres is 6-foot-6 right-hander Andrew Cashner. A former first round pick of the Cubs Cashner has been up and down in his big league career, but was solid in another late season trial with the Cubs after injuries set him back in 2011. Cashner’s shoulder remains a bit of a concern going forward but when right he offers a plus fastball with some sink and a slider that can miss bats.
Na is the lesser known commodity in the entire package. A smallish left-handed hitter, Na turned 20-years old last month after splitting time across four levels of the Cubs organization in 2011. Starting the season in the Arizona Complex League, Na hit .360/.453/.430 and then struggled across two other stops in the Northwest and Midwest Leagues.
A Korean import, Na is a very good athlete that plays solid defense in the outfield with plus instincts, above-average to plus speed and good routes to the ball. His arm is average but plays up a bit because of a quick release.
Na has good contact ability but lacks the strength to drive the ball. Though he commands the strike zone well, Na will have to add strength for his natural hitting ability to play at higher levels. If he can do that, he could be a solid hitter with gap power and an intelligent approach to his time in the batter’s box.
In the end, the Cubs get their first baseman of the future in Anthony Rizzo; a commodity they are both familiar with and comfortable can provide offense in the middle of the lineup as they retool. The Padres add a pitcher capable of filling in the back of the rotation or the back of the bullpen when healthy, and they exchange intriguing prospects as well.