Padres beat writer Bill Center hosted a Padres chat today that brought about an interesting Rays development. Center thinks that Anthony Rizzo, the Padres 22 year old stud first base prospect, will be traded within the next week or two. He predicts that the Rays will get him. This had me wanting to jump for joy, since the Rays have needed a young first baseman for years and Rizzo could be that guy. He could be the Rays power hitter to go with Evan Longoria. Then Center continued, saying the Rays will then flip Rizzo to the Cubs. This leaves me asking why? Why would the Rays get their much needed first baseman and then trade him?
First, let’s talk about the Rays actually getting Rizzo in the first place. Last week I talked about the Rays interest in Rizzo and how the Padres are in need of a starting pitcher. The Padres still have that need, and the Rays still have pitching to give up. Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, or Alex Torres would most likely be included in any trade for Rizzo.
Center also talks about the Padres “desperately” needing a middle infield prospect that could be ready to play in late 2012. Reid Brignac or Sean Rodriguez could be the answer to this need, especially if the Rays sign a guy like Ryan Theriot. Brignac and Rodriguez are both still young and could fill the Padres need of a young, Major League ready middle infielder. The Rizzo deal to the Rays could most likely be completed with one or two prospects, like Nick Barnese or Alex Colome. These would be guys who are still a ways off, but good enough prospects to swing the deal.
OK, so now the Rays have Anthony Rizzo. The question is, would the Rays flip him to the Cubs as Rizzo said? Let’s go on the assumption that they do flip him to the Cubs. Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod are both former Padres executives now working for the Cubs and are said to still covet Rizzo. The Rays have already raided the Cubs farm system once, when they traded Matt Garza last offseason, so they could do it again. The Cubs have a couple of good, young catchers in Geovany Soto and Wellington Castillo. In my mind, I would rather have Castillo. Here is what Baseball Prospectus says about Castillo:
The Good: Castillo’s combination of plus power and plus arm strength is rare in catchers. He can drive balls from gap to gap, and hits lefties and righties with equal effectiveness. His arm is easily his best defensive tool, but he’s also an average receiver.
Castillo is also said to be Major League ready, a plus for the Rays who are in need of a catcher to go with Jose Molina in 2012. One thing to consider is the Rays did acquire a catcher last season from the Cubs in Robinson Chirinos. The Rays had a chance at a Cubs catcher and took Chirinos, so maybe they don’t like Castillo. Or, it just could be the Cubs didn’t want to part with him for Garza and could for Rizzo.
Beyond Castillo, the Rays could be interested in Josh Vitters. Vitters was the third pick in the 2007 as a third baseman. He spent some time at first base for the first time last season, so he could be a potential first base prospect for the Rays. His travel through the Minor Leagues has been slow, spending four seasons in the Minors so far and only making it to Double-A. He is still young at 22 and hit well at Double-A, so he could be getting close. Last year he hit .283 with 14 homers and a .322 OBP. Pretty good, but certainly not Anthony Rizzo good. If the Rays were to get Vitters and Castillo for Rizzo, I could easily see the Rays making this deal. It would most likely not be a two for one deal, with a couple extra prospects going to the Rays and one or two more going to the Cubs.
I would love to see the Rays get Rizzo from the Padres, as I mentioned last week. I just am not sure the Rays should then flip him to the Cubs. Rizzo is a bit of an unknown, since he did so well in the Minors but has yet to hit well in the Big Leagues. It would all depend on what the Rays scouting department thinks of Rizzo as a player and whether he can be a successful hitter at the Major League level. If the Rays like him, Rizzo could be a great fit for the Rays and could be around for many years. If they don’t, the Cubs may and the Rays could send him to the Cubs, as Bill Center says. The Cubs obviously like him since they have two former Padres executives and could be willing to give up a lot to get him.
The Rays have the right prospects to get Anthony Rizzo from the Padres. If they do get Rizzo, it will be interesting to see whether they keep him or send him to the Cubs.