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.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”