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January 6, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Sparing Cash(ner) for Rizzo

by Kevin Goldstein

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IN THIS ISSUE

National League

CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Traded RHP Andrew Cashner and OF-L Kyung-Min Na to the San Diego Padres for 1B-L Anthony Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates. [1/6]

It almost made too much sense. When the Padres acquired Yonder Alonso from the Reds as part of the package for Mat Latos, it was an indication that the team had soured somewhat on Anthony Rizzo. (But I do have Rizzo ahead of Alonso on the upcoming Top 101 prospect list.) Jed Hoyer had Rizzo in both Boston and San Diego. Now Rizzo joins Hoyer in Chicago, as the Padres dealt the first baseman and righty Zach Cates to the Cubs for promising but oft-injured righty Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na.

Rizzo's extreme big-league struggles hurt his value, but he's still a player who hit for average in 2009, for power in 2010, and proved he can hit for both in 2011 by putting up some of the biggest numbers in the minors at Triple-A Tucson. Unfortunately, playing in one of the minors’ most high-octane environments led to same bad habits. Rizzo’s swing got loopy, and he began hunting for power and getting pull-conscious. Big-league pitchers exposed the problem, but it's fixable with adjustments, and playing in the more neutral environment of Triple-A Iowa for half a season could help Rizzo unlock his potential. That's really the only good news for Triple-A masher Bryan LaHair: He’ll get some time keeping the position warm until Rizzo is ready.

A third-round pick in 2010 who signed for an over-slot bonus of $765,000, Cates had a 4.73 ERA in his full-season debut at Fort Wayne, but his peripherals were much better than that: He allowed just 107 hits over 118 innings and struck out 111. Cates is a converted catcher, and he still looks like a position player learning how to pitch. However, he has considerable potential based on his low- to mid-90s velocity. His control and command can waiver when he struggles to find consistency in his delivery, and his breaking ball is well behind his surprisingly solid changeup. Some scouts believe his power stuff and delivery are better suited for bullpen work, but he'll remain a starter until such a move is forced by need, injury, or continued inefficiencies.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Traded 1B-L Anthony Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Andrew Cashner and OF-L Kyung-Min Na. [1/6]

Nobody has every questioned Cashner's arm; he can consistently ramp his fastball into the upper 90s. The only question is what San Diego can—and will—do with him. Cashner was the best college closer in the 2007 draft, but the Cubs converted him to a starter because he had both a slider and a changeup. Early returns were impressive, but his first big-league role was back in the bullpen, and after struggling with shoulder problems in 2011, there is plenty of reason to believe he's just not designed to pitch 200 innings per year. Cashner has pure closer stuff, but his command has always been an issue. Reviews of his Arizona Fall League performances last November were lackluster, as he fell behind in the count far too often, and while his fastball possesses plenty of heat and sink, it also tends to elevate.

Na is a product of the Cubs’ heavy work in Asia. The 20-year-old Korean outfielder spent time at four levels in 2011, hitting a combined .268/.358/.312. His best attributes are plus speed and a knack for contact and working the count, but he has very little power, either real or projected, and his poor arm could limit him to left field. He's a long ways away, and might only have the ceiling of an extra outfielder.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Andrew Cashner

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