Major League teams can rarely trade a blue-chip power-hitting first base prospect and know they have another waiting in the wings, but such is the case for the San Diego Padres.
The Pads on Friday afternoon packaged Anthony Rizzo, the organization's No. 3 prospect, in a four-player deal with the Chicago Cubs that returned right-hander Andrew Cashner, a potential lights-out, late-inning reliever.
San Diego also received outfielder Kyung-Min Na, a 20-year-old Class A outfielder, while Chicago acquired Zach Cates, a 22-year-old Class A starting pitcher. Neither was ranked among his former organization's top 10 prospects.
The centerpiece of the transaction, Rizzo, 22, became expendable -- or as expendable as highly touted prospects can be -- when first-year Padres GM Josh Byrnes acquired Yonder Alonso from the Reds, along with pitchers Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger and catcher Yasmani Grandal for starting pitcher Mat Latos last month.
Dealing within familiar circles no doubt helped Byrnes move this latest deal along, too. The former D-backs executive negotiated with the man he replaced in San Diego, new Cubs GM Jed Hoyer.
Originally a sixth-round pick of the Red Sox in 2007 -- when Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod worked in Boston -- Rizzo enjoyed his best overall season in the Minors in 2011. Playing at Triple-A Tucson, the left-handed hitting slugger batted .331 and collected career highs in home runs (26) and RBIs (101) in just 93 games.
Those successes didn't translate into a seamless big league debut, however. In 49 games with San Diego, Rizzo batted .141 and struck out in 46 of his 128 at-bats.
"It was too early," Hoyer told MLB.com of his decision then to promote Rizzo to the bigs, "and a mistake on my part, and I don't think I did Anthony any favors there."
Hoyer also said Rizzo would likely begin the 2012 season at Triple-A Iowa, with 2011 Pacific Coast League MVP Bryan LaHair getting the first crack at first base in Chicago.
Rizzo's replacement, Alonso, now the No. 2 prospect in the Padres' system, batted .330 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 47 games for the Reds last season after batting .296 in 96 games at Triple-A Louisville.
"I figured something would happen, but I wasn't completely sure," Rizzo told MLB.com regarding his reaction to the Alonso acquisition. "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."
Cashner, the 19th overall pick in the 2008 Draft, overcome a strained rotator cuff in 2011, pitching in 21 games between the Minors, Majors and Arizona Fall League. The 6-foot-6 righty impressed as a starter early in his career, then made 53 relief appearances for the Cubs in 2010.
Na, a native of South Korea, batted .268 and stole 20 bases in 83 games over four levels in the Cubs system last season, his second as a pro.
Cates, the Padres' third-round pick in 2010, made 25 starts at Fort Wayne in 2011, compiling a 4-10 record and 4.73 ERA.