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.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.