Revisiting the Cashner/Rizzo Trade
Watching the Padres/Cubs series this past weekend ignited my interest in the Rizzo/Cashner trade. At the time, the perception was that the Cubs were trading a talented but injury-prone pitcher, while receiving a player who was once the centerpiece in a trade for Adrain Gonzalez. As far as the Cubs and their fanbase were concerned, they'd pulled a fast one on San Diego. But let's take a subjective, analytical look into how both players have faired since the trade.
Cashner's career with the Padres began much like it did with the Cubs -- with an internal debate on wether he should be a starter or a reliever. In college, Cashner was a shutdown closer. But when the Cubs drafted him, they had dreams of him thriving as a starter. As soon as he was drafted, the Cubs converted Cashner to a starting pitcher, in the minors. However as soon as he was called up to the major leagues, Cashner was moved back into the bullpen; thus beginning the Cubs' symphony of indecisiveness regarding his role with the organization -- not unlike the Red Sox with Daniel Bard; and the Yankees with Joba Chamberlain.
Upon his arrival in San Diego, Cashner began his tenure as a reliever. As the season wound down, Cashner vacillated between the bullpen and the starting rotation, finishing the season with a 4.27 ERA; 2.74 SO/BB; 10.1 SO/9; and a 1.317 WHIP. This season, the Padres began stretching Cashner out into being a full-time starter. The results -- 3.55 ERA; 2.33 SO/BB; 6.2 SO/9; 1.212 WHIP. Cashner is obviously striking less batters out -- but he's also allowing less hits and weaker balls are being struck upon contact. In this being his first season as a starting pitcher, San Diego has to be excited about Cashner's future prospects.
Rizzo arrived in Chicago coming of a dismal major league debut -- .141/.281/.242 batting line, in 49 games. Naturally, the Cubs believed Rizzo needed some fine-tuning in the minors, so they started him off in AAA, to beggin the season. Rizzo proceeded to crush minor-league pitching -- .342/.405/.696 -- prompting the Cubs to promote him to the big leagues, in late June. Rizzo finished the 2012 season with 15 HR; a .285/.342/.463 line, while exhibiting above-average defensive ability at firstbase. The Cubs were ecstatic; so-much-so that they signed Rizzo to a 7 yr/$41 million-dollar contract extension, to begin this season. Rizzo has responded by providing average production. His + .103 OBP is great. So are the extra-base hits he's churning out -- 54 hits going for more than a single, including 20 Home Runs. But Rizzo has been dreadful with runners in scoring position -- .589 OPS; .177 BA -- while being equally dreadful against left-handed pitching -- .668 OPS; .195 BA. Furthermore, Rizzo has struck out 104 times, so far this season. Again, as a whole, Rizzo hasn't been terrible; just average. The problem is, the Cubs didn't invest in Rizzo with average resources -- Cashner; $41 Million.
Finally, there's age to consider. Both players are entering their prime years -- Cashner will be 27; Rizzo will be 25 -- so improvement should be expected for both, with the Cubs getting a few extra years in the age department.
Everything considered, I believe we have to reserve our judgments on this trade for at least a few more years. For now, it looks like the slight edge goes to the Padres -- ever so slight!
*Note: Apologies to Kyung-Min Na and Zach Cates -- the other two players involved in this trade.