Anthony Rizzo

So much for Prince Fielder: Cubs acquire Anthony Rizzo from Padres for Andrew Cashner

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Anthony Rizzo’s future in San Diego was in doubt as soon as the Padres acquired Yonder Alonso from the Reds in the Mat Latos trade last month and today they traded Rizzo and Zach Cates to the Cubs for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na.

Rizzo was awful in 49 games for the Padres as a 21-year-old rookie, hitting .141 with one homer, but hit .331 with 26 homers and a 1.056 OPS in 93 games at Triple-A. He came to San Diego from Boston in the blockbuster Adrian Gonzalez deal last offseason and ranked as the Padres’ top prospect according to Baseball America.

Cashner was the 19th overall pick in the 2008 draft and the 25-year-old right-hander has thrown 65 innings for the Cubs with a 4.29 ERA and 58/34 K/BB ratio. He’s worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen in the majors and Cashner’s mid-90s fastball could make him a dominant late-inning reliever, but he was a starter in the minors with a 2.82 ERA and 161/80 K/BB ratio in 182 total innings.

Cates was the Padres’ third-round pick in 2010 and the 21-year-old right-hander spent last season at Single-A, posting a 4.73 ERA and 111/53 K/BB ratio in 118 innings as a starter. Na is an athletic 19-year-old outfielder who thrived at rookie-ball last season before struggling with the move up to Single-A.

Cates and Na are both solid prospects, but this trade is very much a Rizzo-for-Cashner swap and the Cubs did well to pick up one of the best hitting prospects in baseball at a discounted price because of his 49-game rookie struggles and the logjam in San Diego created by Alonso’s arrival. Rizzo going to Chicago also takes the Cubs out of the running for Prince Fielder, although he’s expected to begin the season at Triple-A with Bryan LaHair starting at first base.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: