In one of the biggest trades of last year's offseason, the Boston Red Sox acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres for prospects, Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly and Reymond Fuentes.
Rizzo, a first baseman, was an intriguing prospect given his connection to then-Red Sox general manger Theo Epstein's protege, Padres' GM Jed Hoyer.
Fast forward to now, as Theo Epstein is the President of Baseball Operations and Jed Hoyer is the general manager of the Chicago Cubs, and as of today, Anthony Rizzo has rejoined Epstein/Hoyer in Chicago as he was traded from the Padres' for right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner.
Ever since the Padres' dealt starting pitcher Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for first baseman Yonder Alonso, pitcher Edison Volquez and catching prospect Yasmani Grandal, it was suspected that Rizzo would become a main target for the Cubs given both Epstein and Hoyer's connections with him.
At Triple-A Tucson last year, Rizzo batted .331 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI in 93 games. Immediately Rizzo becomes one of the Cubs top prospects along side center fielder Brett Jackson.
Rizzo brings to the table the prototypical power-hitting left-handed batter that many teams search so hard to find. At just 22 years old, Rizzo posses a great combination of power as well as an ability to hit balls all over the field. Although he struggled in his first call up to the major leagues and is expected to start the 2012 season at Triple-A Iowa, Rizzo immediately becomes one of the first major acquisitions in the rebuilding of this Cubs franchise.
It has been no secret that the Cubs are not going to be much of a contender next season or the season after that. Former general manger Jim Hendry played in to the win now philosophy, and the Cubs are riddled with aging veterans with large contracts. Epstein and Hoyer have been doing their best to focus around their young star, Starlin Castro, and to begin to build a young nucleus around him.
Earlier trades involving Sean Marshall going to the Reds for 24-year-old starting pitcher Travis Wood and getting rid of Carlos Zambrano for a serviceable 25-year-old starting pitcher Chris Volstad have shown that this new regime is ready to get younger and are willing to eat a large contract (i.e., Cubs will be paying for the majority of Zambrano's remaining $18 million that remains on his deal).
If Rizzo can pan out to become the type of player that many believe he can be, the Cubs may have finally found their long-term solution at first base. A guy who can hit for power, have a high average and play exceptional defense at first can become a cornerstone along with Starlin Castro and Brett Jackson, for an organization that is desperate to win. Rizzo is not the only answer or even the savior, but he is a great starting point for an organization desperate to win.
Hopefully in the years to come, Rizzo can make the phrase "Wait until next year" a thing of the past.