Let’s start by covering my biases (or bases if you will). I’ve already admitted to being a lifelong cynic. Strike one. I’m also a Padres fan. Strike two. I’m in the hole 0-2, but we’ll see if I can connect on this post without flaunting my glaring biases too much.
Last night, the San Diego Padres debuted their prized first base prospect Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo, one of two highly touted prospects to come over in the Adrian Gonzalez deal with Boston, had been destroying the Pacific Coast League with Triple-A Tucson. Not since Ben Davis, Matt Clement, or Sean Burroughs has there been a player so highly anticipated by Padres fans. Perhaps he has even surpassed that hype based on articles nation-wide about his promotion.
Unlike the past flops of Padres prospects, I fully expect Rizzo to develop into a star. He is a big kid with a sweet swing and a lot of power. He is similar to the force of a first baseman he was traded for and will likely contribute early to this woeful Padres offense. But the true question is, can he be a long-term solution as many have already dubbed him.
Jim Bowden, in his blog for ESPN The GM’s Office, provides the scouting report on Rizzo and suggests he is in fact the long-term solution the Padres are looking for at first base. (See it at http://espn.go.com/blog/the-gms-office/post/_/id/302/rizzo-arrives-to-the-show) I guess that depends on your definition of long-term and your definition of solution.
If your definition of “long-term” is 4-5 years, then sure Rizzo is long-term. If you definition of “solution” is to build a solid ball player who you will eventually trade for prospects, then Rizzo is indeed the solution. Unfortunately this is the trend with small market clubs. It’s not just the Padres, all the small payroll teams deal with this phenomenon. Just look at the history of Padres players:
-Roberto Alomar: Signed as an amateur in 1985, traded away five years later.
-Andy Benes: Drafted in 1988, traded away seven years later.
-Gary Sheffield: Trade to the Padres in 1992, traded away in 1993. (However, this worked out pretty well in the acquisition of Trevor Hoffman)
-Derrek Lee: Drafted by the Padres in 1993, traded away in 1997.
-Jason Bay: Traded to the Padres in 2002, traded away in 2003.
-Xavier Nady: Drafted by the Padres in 2000, traded away in 2005.
-Jake Peavy: Drafted by the Padres in 1999, traded away in 2009.
-Adrian Gonzalez: Traded to the Padres in 2006, traded away in 2010.
So there you have the trend. While I’m excited to see Rizzo at the Major League level, I’m realistic in knowing that, should he have some success, the Padres will have to trade him away.
As frustrating as it may be, this is not necessarily a formula for disaster. Small market clubs can compete and do compete under these circumstances. It’s a matter of getting the most out of young talent before trading them away, then getting good prospects in return. Once they’ve done this, the vicious cycle can start all over again.
As Rizzo was welcomed to the show by a nasty Livan Hernandez curve followed by a devastating cut fastball, and as I watched him adjust in his next at bat to blast a triple off the base of the wall, I think I will enjoy watching this kid play in San Diego for a few years. Then, when he’s traded, I can enjoy the next prospect.