“I think that teams that try to ‘win’ deals don’t make a lot of deals.” – Jed Hoyer
Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer spoke those words during this season’s trade deadline, but they’re extremely relevant when looking back through past trades as well. And out of those past deals, one in particular stands out.
The deal that sent flame throwing Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres in exchange for left-handed masher Anthony Rizzo.
At the time of the trade, Cashner was 24 years-old and had 55 pro innings to his name. He had pitched in 60 games and only made one start. In short, his numbers weren’t pretty, especially for someone working exclusively out of the bullpen.
On the flip side, Anthony Rizzo was just 21 years-old and well, the results were horrendous during his first taste of the majors. In 49 games, he hit a whopping .141/.281/.242 with an OPS of .523, which is sadly lower than Darwin Barney’s worst season.
Clearly, there was no idea who was getting the better end, or even if there would be a better end of the deal when it was all said and done. Advanced metrics didn’t favor one player over another, and both had solid minor league track records.
Scouting reports probably had the biggest say in all of this, and it’s easy to forget, but Theo Epstein drafted Rizzo while he was in Boston. So it would be fair to say that Epstein was hedging his bet on a guy that he knew best. Hoyer was the GM for the Padres before coming to the Cubs, so he was also very familiar with what he was getting in Rizzo.
Now I’m sitting here and it’s mid-September, almost three full seasons after the trade. I have Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference open, and as I analyze both players’ profiles, I’m slowly realizing that both teams ‘won’ this deal.
Cashner, the kid that threw hard but lacked control, is currently pitching to the tune of a 2.20/2.87 ERA/FIP through 110.1 innings as a starter. He has struck out 82 while walking just 27, and he’s thrown two complete game shutouts. In fact, Cashner has gotten better every year since being traded away from the Cubs. The only worry with Cashner is if he can stay healthy.
Meanwhile, Rizzo had a bat made out of Swiss cheese while in San Diego. Here in 2014, he has the second most home runs in the National League (31), despite missing time with a back injury. Since being traded, Rizzo has transformed himself into a complete hitter. This season he’s hitting .278/.377/.518 while playing great defense over at first base. It’s pretty safe to say that he is a cornerstone of the Cubs future.
When looking at the Andrew Cashner for Anthony Rizzo deal it all really boils down to Theo and Jed’s philosophy during the rebuilding process. For them, they prefer a bat to an arm because pitchers tend to have higher attrition rates. Why?
It’s simple. Pitchers are performing an action that the body was not intended to do, making major injuries unavoidable and unpredictable. For a hitter, the worst thing that could possibly happen would be getting drilled in the head by a pitch and having reoccurring concussion symptoms. I will note that Cashner has had a history of arm trouble, only reinforcing that philosophy.
In the end, both players (and teams) seem to have benefited from this trade. Cashner has moved to a spacious ballpark that is very pitcher friendly, and Rizzo has moved to a smaller park that is more hitter friendly. Ultimately, though, I think Cashner still would have developed while with the Cubs, but I’m not so sure that Rizzo would be the player he is today if he was still with the Padres.
There’s still plenty of time to eventually tell us the whole story, but a look back at the past three seasons says both the Cubs and Padres gained franchise cornerstones. Often times to get a young stud, you have to send one away too.
Because just like Hoyer said, you won’t be making many trades if you don’t.
(Feature Photo Credit: Keith Allison)