Imrem: Rizzo a big trade win for Chicago Cubs

  • Anthony Rizzo, middle, celebrates with relief pitcher Hector Rondon, left, and Addison Russell after the Cubs' victory Saturday night over the White Sox.

    Anthony Rizzo, middle, celebrates with relief pitcher Hector Rondon, left, and Addison Russell after the Cubs' victory Saturday night over the White Sox. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/18/2015 4:50 PM

Welcome to my third annual evaluation of the Cashner-for-Rizzo baseball trade.

Maybe it's the fourth annual. The years do tend to run together.

 

On Jan. 6, 2012, the Cubs sent right-hander Andrew Cashner to San Diego for first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

This was an intriguing baseball trade: Young promising pitching prospect Cashner for young promising slugging prospect Rizzo.

The transaction came little more than two months after the Cubs named Theo Epstein their president of baseball operations.

Monitoring Rizzo and Cashner seemed like a good way to begin assessing Epstein's major overhaul of, well, the Cubs' baseball operations.

I'm proclaiming the evaluation period complete.

The verdict is in: The Cubs and Epstein won the trade big time.

Cashner has teased with signs of becoming really good but has had trouble staying healthy.

Meanwhile, Rizzo actually has become really, really good.

This season is decisive: Cashner has a 4-12 record and 4.20 ERA; Rizzo is batting .296 with 23 home runs and 68 RBI.

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The outcome is a knockout, but it took a few rounds of jockeying to get to this point.

Believe it or not, there was a time not long ago when Cashner was ahead of Rizzo in their respective developments.

First I gave the Cubs the edge on points, then the Padres the edge and now the Cubs the victory.

The Cubs won 2012 when Rizzo hit well and Cashner was on the disabled list twice. The Padres won 2013 when Cashner had a 3.09 ERA and Rizzo slumped to a .233 batting average. Rizzo rallied in 2014 and Cashner was hurt again.

Now that Rizzo is having one terrific 2015 and Cashner is struggling, two straight years is enough to retire the trophy.

Cashner is so ordinary now that he was one of myriad Padres players available at the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline and he likely still is.

Putting this into perspective, Cashner isn't a Cy Young Award candidate on a bad team and Rizzo is a legitimate MVP candidate on a team headed to the playoffs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Except for a relatively brief lull, Rizzo has been the Cubs' constant this year. He teamed with Kris Bryant to carry the offense for a while; then he teamed with Kyle Schwarber to carry the offense; overall he teams with whoever else is hot to carry the offense.

Nearly everything in sports is fluid, of course.

Cashner is 28, has plenty of time to regain his balance and still might grow into everything he was supposed to be.

Rizzo, 26, is hit by pitches at an alarming rate and there's always a chance that a fastball to the face might end his career sooner than later.

But those remote possibilities aside, Rizzo has given the Cubs and Epstein a big rebuilding block.

Rizzo is not only one of the NL's premier run producers, he is an asset defensively as evidenced by the SportsCenter Web Gem catch of a popup he made in the first-base stands last week.

Beyond even all of that, Rizzo evolved into a team leader on and off the field and is an impressive role model for every impressionable prospect the Cubs promote from the minors.

Whatever happens from here, the Cubs acquired a baseball star in Anthony Rizzo and the Padres essentially still have a work in progress in Cashner.

After I questioned the trade off and on for three or four years, it's time to give Theo Epstein his props for this one.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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