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Friday, January 6, 2012
Cubs get first baseman Anthony Rizzo

ESPNChicago.com

The Chicago Cubs may have gotten their first baseman of the future, and his name isn't Prince Fielder.

The team acquired Anthony Rizzo from the Padres in a deal that sends right-hander Andrew Cashner to San Diego.

Rizzo batted .331 with 34 doubles, 26 home runs and 101 RBIs in 93 Triple-A games last season. He had a solid 1.056 OPS. Rizzo struggled in his call-up to the Padres, batting .141 in 128 at-bats, but it was the 22-year-old's first exposure to the big leagues.

New Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer know Rizzo well. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder was originally drafted by the Red Sox in 2007, when the pair and new Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod were in Boston.

Rizzo was then a big part of the deal that brought Adrian Gonzalez to Boston last season. At that time, Hoyer was the GM of the Padres.

"We believe Anthony has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order run producer for the Cubs for a very long time," Hoyer said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "He still has some development left. We feel what he's done at age 20 at Double-A and age 21 at Triple-A was remarkable."

Rizzo has also overcome Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was diagnosed in 2008 and declared cancer-free after months of chemotherapy.

The Cubs also get right-hander Zach Cates, 22, who pitched at Class A last season, in the trade. In addition to Cashner, the Cubs send minor league outfielder Kyung-Min Na, 20, to San Diego.

Cashner, 25, was 2-6 with a 4.29 ERA in 60 major league games. He was expected to step into the starting rotation last season but made only one start and appeared in just seven games because of a shoulder strain.

"The acquisition of Yonder Alonso (from the Reds in the Mat Latos trade) provided us the flexibility to make this trade and acquire a quality, young power arm in Andrew Cashner," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

"We are happy to add a pitcher with the pedigree of Cashner and an outfielder with the athleticism of Na."

The Cubs have been in need of a first baseman after not re-signing Carlos Pena, who manned the position for one season.

Hoyer said Friday that the team will head to spring training with Bryan LaHair at first and Rizzo getting more seasoning at Triple-A.

"To be candid, I don't think I did Anthony any favors when I was GM of the Padres," Hoyer said of Rizzo's call-up last season. "It was too early, and it was a mistake on my part."

LaHair had his own huge year at Triple-A last season, winning the Pacific Coast League MVP.

LaHair did a little better than Rizzo in his major league call-up, hitting .288 with two homers and six RBIs in 59 at-bats with the Cubs. But LaHair is also 29 years old, and Epstein has vowed to build for the long haul.

Both players bat left-handed, an area of need for the Cubs. If at some point in the season Rizzo did get called up to play first base, LaHair gained some experience in the outfield last season and could get at-bats there. Epstein reportedly has been talking to teams about trading Alfonso Soriano, but his big contract is an impediment to a deal.

Fielder is still the biggest name on the free-agent market. The Cubs had reportedly shown interest in the former Brewers slugger, but he doesn't seem to fit into Epstein's commitment to building from within and only adding big free agents when the team is poised to challenge for a title. After a 71-91 season and with a number of holes to fill, the team is likely a few years away from being a serious contender.

"Any time you go with young players, it's the right thing to do," Hoyer said, according to the Tribune. "It's exciting to have young talent in an organization, but there's no doubt that with young talent comes an adjustment period. The best prospects get through that adjustment period and they take off. It's nice to have a team with upside, and you know that when they do go through that adjustment period, and can get past it, they can explode."

Since taking over in October, Epstein and Hoyer have traded the Cubs' 2008 first-round pick in Cashner and 2006 first-rounder Tyler Colvin, who went to Colorado for third baseman Ian Stewart.

Hoyer also said Friday that he is still in talks with representatives for Kerry Wood on bringing the reliever back to the Cubs.