The Chicago Cubs announced on Friday that they have acquired first baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Zach Cates from the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitcher Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na. The deal gives the Cubs a shiny, newly minted first baseman that they can try out next season, while the Padres get an extremely intriguing power arm to slide into their pitching staff.
Rizzo, 22, was recently rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in San Diego's farm system, and Jim Callis of Baseball America said in his recent Ask BA piece that he ranked Rizzo as the No. 42 prospect in all of baseball. This is one of the best hitting prospects in the game, although he had mixed results at various levels in 2011.
Last season in Triple-A, Rizzo was positively dominant, hitting .331/.404/.652 with 34 doubles and 26 homers in 413 plate appearances. But with the Padres, Rizzo hit just .141/.281/.242 while battling contact issues. He's got legit plus power, a good batting eye and improving hitting skills, so one can expect the Cubs to use Rizzo at first base on Opening Day. Bryan LaHair was slotted into that spot, but he becomes Triple-A depth or trade fodder at this point.
The big get for the Padres is Cashner, a former first-round pick and top prospect that missed most of 2011 with elbow injuries. He's healthy now, though, and has a legit plus fastball that touches 98-99 MPH. Some believe that he may be better geared for a relief role given the questions surrounding his durability and delivery, but most talent evaluators believe that he has the raw stuff to survive as a power starter. I'd expect Cashner to begin 2012 with the Padres in some role.
Cates, 22, was San Diego's third-round pick in 2010. He made his MLB debut with Single-A Fort Wayne in 2011 and had some mixed results, flashing some ability to miss bats and solid stuff but iffy overall results with a 4.73 ERA. Na, a 20-year-old native of Korea, split last season between short-season leagues and Single-A. He thrived in the rookie league, but looked pretty overmatched in full-season ball. He's still young and athletic, though, so it's an example of the Padres taking a flier on a low-level talent. Both players will presumably begin next season in Single-A.