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.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.