Anthony Rizzo struggled in his first big league season, batting .141. (AP)Should we start with the bad news, Chicago Cubs fans? Your team won't be signing Prince Fielder this offseason.
But the good news is that the Cubs will still be getting a new first baseman, one who could eventually man the position for years to come (and will be arriving in town with a much lower pricetag than Prince).
Anthony Rizzo is a familiar face to the Cubs' new front office. GM Jed Hoyer was with the San Diego Padres when they acquired Rizzo from the Boston Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez trade last winter. Team president Theo Epstein was the Red Sox GM when the team drafted Rizzo out of high school in 2007.
The 22-year-old struggled in his first taste of the big leagues last season. In 153 plate appearances, Rizzo batted .141/.281/.242 with one home run and nine RBIs. He showed big-time power in the minors, averaging 25 homers and 100 RBIs over the past two seasons. But Rizzo became expendable in San Diego when the Padres got Yonder Alonso from the Cincinnati Reds in the Mat Latos trade.
Hoyer admitted that he probably rushed Rizzo last year and sees him starting in the minors next season, with Bryan LaHair — who hit .331/.405/.664 with 38 homers and 109 RBIs for Triple-A Iowa — being the Cubs' starting first baseman. While that's probably disappointing for fans who were hoping for a flashier move, this is more in line with the rebuilding approach Epstein and Hoyer have taken thus far.
In exchange for Rizzo and reliever prospect Zach Cates, San Diego received pitcher Andrew Cashner and minor-league outfielder Kyung-Min Na. Cashner was the Cubs' first-round pick in 2008. He struggled as a reliever in his first big-league season and was sidelined with a shoulder injury for most of last year. But when he returned in September, Cashner showed promise, allowing two runs in 10 2/3 innings.
The Padres intend to keep Cashner in the bullpen next season, projecting him as an eighth-inning setup man for new closer Huston Street. He pitched mostly as a reliever in college at TCU, but his future is viewed as a starting pitcher. Cashner started 42 games over four seasons in the Cubs' minor-league system.
It's been an impressively busy offseason for new Padres GM Josh Byrnes, who's quickly overhauled the roster. In addition to getting Street, Byrnes also acquired outfielder Carlos Quentin among the seven trades he's made this winter.