Anthony Rizzo's destruction of Triple-A continues, when will Cubs promote him?
Cubs prospect Anthony Rizzo is hitting .363/.422/.721 with 20 homers, 53 RBI, 43 runs and 15 doubles in Triple-A. How and when will the Cubs promote him?
No one else in the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) has more than 17 homers. Rizzo also holds an absurd 61-point lead in slugging percentage and 1.010 lead in OPS. His current stat line: .363/.422/.721 with 20 homers, 53 RBI, 43 runs and 15 doubles in 58 games. And it would appear Rizzo has had plenty of time in Triple-A, because he is hitting .343 with a 1.089 OPS, 46 homers, 49 doubles and 154 RBI in 151 career Triple-A games. I mean, those are video-game numbers.
So the lingering question is, when will the Cubs finally call upon Rizzo? There are two significant factors:
Service time: Though Cubs president Theo Epstein has said in the past that service time isn't an issue, it really does seem to be. Considering Rizzo's time spent in the majors last season for the Padres, 104 days of service time this year would start his free agency clock one year earlier than 103 days would (hat-tip ESPN Chicago). The Cubs' last game this season is Oct. 3, so my calculations say Friday, June 22 is when the Cubs can call him up -- assuming this is a consideration.
Playing time: Using OPS-plus, the Cubs only have four productive everyday hitters on their major-league roster. Starlin Castro and three guys blocking Rizzo from playing time. Bryan LaHair is at first base. There's been speculative talk that LaHair could be shifted to a corner outfield spot if Rizzo is called upon. But David DeJesus (RF) and Alfonso Soriano (LF) are both hitting the ball well. And there's no reason whatsoever to call up Rizzo unless he's going to play every day.
So, what to do?
Trade, of course.
As my colleague Jon Heyman reported late last week, the Cubs will be heavily involved in trade talks prior to the July 31 deadline. Heyman mentions that the Cubs will have to eat a ton of money to deal Soriano, but it's still very possible. The Cubs aren't going anywhere any time soon, and the 36-year-old Soriano doesn't fit into any future plans. Also, the money shouldn't be a huge issue, because the deep-pocketed Cubs have very little long-term money on the books right now (less than $35 million committed in 2013, per Cot's Contracts).
So if Soriano is cleared from left field, do the Cubs move LaHair to LF and bring Rizzo up? It's tough to tell, but it still seems a dicey proposition. Epstein is a guy who cares greatly about defense and LaHair is said to have very little range in the outfield. We can't be sure this is a possibility at all, but what if the Cubs decide to trade LaHair? He's 29 now, and the Cubs are clearly looking ahead at least three years with this rebuilding process. LaHair would certainly land more in return than Soriano would. Under these circumstances, I'd say it's something to consider -- and remember, Heyman reported everyone but Castro could go.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the Cubs proceed, but one thing is for sure: There's zero reason to head into July with Rizzo still in the minors.
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