The Chicago Cubs accomplished a number of stated goals yesterday by acquiring 22-year-old first base prospect, Anthony Rizzo (together with pitching prospect Zach Cates, in exchange for Andrew Cashner and outfield prospect Kyung Min-Na). The team got younger, the Cubs picked up a long-term first baseman, and the Cubs preserved available cash to go after other young pieces (say, for example, Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler).
Cubs’ General Manager Jed Hoyer spoke about the trade, and highly of the young man he thrice acquired.
- On Rizzo’s overall makeup, something Scouting Chief Jason McLeod has described as the best he’s ever seen: “He has fantastic makeup. After beating cancer when he was 19 years old, he’s a very strong individual. In San Diego I got to know him better than I did in Boston. He makes a big impression on his teammates and he’s an incredibly hard worker …. Overcoming cancer was incredibly impressive, but I think it’s a mistake if you just allude to his makeup that he overcame cancer. He’s a very strong person …. He’s a leader that can put our organization, our team on the right path as far as our culture. He’s a very impressive individual.”
- On Rizzo’s success thus far and his future potential: “We believe Anthony has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order run producer for the Cubs for a very long time. We believe 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.”
- On the plan at first base for 2012: “The way we see it is Bryan [LaHair] had a terrific year last year in Triple-A and has been terrific this year in Venezuela. We see him as our first baseman. It’s likely Anthony will start the year in Triple-A.” For my part, I’m pretty pleased with the plan. Not only could Rizzo use a little more time in AAA to work on his swing, this gives the Cubs a chance to get a long, serious look at LaHair without impeding any other moves. While I was not in favor of LaHair getting the nod at first base instead of the Cubs seeking out a more established or higher upside option, now that they’ve got Rizzo in the fold for the long-term, I’m pleased as punch to let LaHair get his shot, however unlikely the odds of success. Why not?
- On what happens if Rizzo tears it up in Spring Training: “I’m never going to say never [with respect to Rizzo winning the first base job in Spring Training]. But that’s not the plan we are going into Spring Training with. In general, I think winning jobs in Spring Training is a very dangerous thing. That’s especially true with hitters in Arizona. The ball really flies there. A lot of hitters look good. A lot of things can deceive you in Arizona. The plan is that Bryan LaHair will be our first baseman and that Anthony will be in Iowa.” If the memory of Scott McClain teaches you anything, it is this very point that Jed is making.
- On Rizzo’s struggles in the big leagues last year, when he was called up at just 21: “To be candid, I don’t think I did Anthony any favors when I was the GM of the Padres. We called him up because we weren’t getting any first base production in San Diego. It was too early, and a mistake on my part, and I don’t think I did Anthony any favors there.”
- On the move toward younger players: “Any time you go with young players, it’s the right thing to do. 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. With young players, there does come growing pains. It’s definitely something we’re prepared to deal with, and frankly, it’s the only way to rebuild a great organization … to have the patience to go through that with the right players.” That is an excellent attitude, and one that I hope fans take to heart. There’s a bright future ahead, but it is the future. There will be bumps.
As for Rizzo, he’s excited to be a part of what the Cubs are growing.
- On reuniting with Hoyer, McLeod (and Epstein): “I got called up to the big leagues last year and struggled a little bit. I wouldn’t say some people wrote me off, but some people I guess lost some faith in me. For them to still have that faith, with everything they helped me through, it just shows me how loyal they are and how honored I am to play for them …. This is such a big business. I’ve seen it now for the last five years how much of a business it is. Everyone I’ve spoken to talks about how professional Theo is, how straightforward he is with everyone. It means a lot to me to be with them again.”
- On his expectation after the Padres traded for first baseman Yonder Alonso: “I figured something would happen, but I wasn’t completely sure. I just went on with my offseason and trained as hard as I’m training to prepare for next year, wherever it was. Now I’m a Cub and hopefully will remain a Cub for many years to come.”
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