I'm back after an extended off-season break. I spent more time away than I had planned, and a lot more happened with or White Sox and Cubs than I thought would happen this off-season--and there are still a few weeks left before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
During the last several weeks, as I've been consumed by holiday activities and a busier-than-usual freelance writing schedule, I've been silently amassing opinions on what has amounted to an off-season of rebuilding for both teams.
Over the next several posts, I'll try to take a look at just about everything that has happened since Thanksgiving, but I might as well start not with the biggest news, but the most recent news--the Cubs' trade of Andrew Cashner.
This trade is probably my favorite move by the new regime so far--and I say this as a fan of Cashner, who thinks he'll overcome last season's shoulder injury to become a solid starter with a long career. When the Cubs traded Carlos Zambrano (more on that in a later post) earlier in the week, Cashner's spot in the Cubs rotation looked extremely solid. He was almost guaranteed to be the No. 3 starter, and was a Matt Garza trade away from possibly being the No. 2 starter.
But, trading Cashner for 21-year-old slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo is a brilliantly aggressive move. Rizzo's future may be no more certain than Cashner's is, but at a time when Prince Fielder rumors were running rampant, Theo & Co. (or maybe I should start saying Jed Hoyer & Co.) rightly stuck to their rebuilding plan and their commitment to player development. This is something Jim Hendry never could accomplish, as he would always fall for a free agent first baseman rather than commit to a young promising one.
Pitching may win championships, and that is an area the front office will definitely have to start focusing on more, but having a first baseman he who hits for power AND average and is defensively sound is more important than having a good pitcher who plays only once every five days.
At best, Rizzo could turn out to be Rafael Palmeiro. (If so, let's hope he stays in Chicago says no to drugs). At worst, he could be Hee-Seop Choi. We just don't know yet, but I do like the fact that Epstein and Hoyer have been fairly obsessed with Rizzo.
Drafted by Boston, Rizzo was tone of the players Epstein had to trade (and supposedly really didn't want to trade, according to a recent Sports Illustrated story) to Hoyer in San Diego to get superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. When the Padres recently acquired another young first baseman, Hoyer saw the Padres could now be open to moving Rizzo.
Rizzo will start in AAA, but depending on how Bryan LaHair--the first baseman of the brief near future--does, he could be up by mid-summer. The Cubs should be interesting to watch this year, possibly in the same way my six-year-old nephew's baseball team is interesting to watch. Mistakes will be made, frustration will be expected, and possibly a good deal of fun could be had as we get a glimpse at the promising future. Rizzo was acquired not for 2012, but for the rest of the decade.