Chicago Cubs: The day the Cubs saved Anthony Rizzo from San Diego

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

In January of 2012, new President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein wasted no time in his first big move. He traded Andrew Cashner to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo. And so the clock was set into motion on an amazing journey.

When the Chicago Cubs‘ Theo Epstein traded for Anthony Rizzo, many of us didn’t know what to expect. Andrew Cashner was coming off of rotator cuff surgery, but Cubs’ fans were still excited about him. And Rizzo, who was coming off a dismal year at the plate in just 49 games wasn’t all that exciting of a player. How little did we know back then?

When Epstein brought over Rizzo, it was the darkest of times. He came over as the start of the dark era began, and was meant to be part of the group that would change that. He and Starlin Castro would help lead the new wave of Cubs to help change history. Unfortunately, Castro has moved on since then. But Rizzo? He’s been a critical factor in the success of the Cubs franchise.

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Rough start for Rizzo

It wasn’t the greatest of starts for Rizzo with the Cubs. In his first season with them, Rizzo played in 87 games with the Cubs, batting .285 with 15 home runs.

Not bad, but the following year, the wheels came off for him. In his first full-season, Rizzo played in 160 games. But his batting average fell to a paltry .233 while hitting just 23 home runs over the course of the year.

The year it all came together

It was in 2014 when it all clicked for Rizzo. In that time, he’s batted .282 and averaged 32 home runs and 99 RBI. He’s been in the top-15 for the MVP award four-straight years and took home the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2016. But it’s not just been about his performance on the field, but his effort off of it, as well.

Rizzo donated $3.5 million to the Lurie Children’s Hospital, part of his ever-present effort to help families battling cancer. His effort on the field as well as off is why our Jacob Misener believes the Cubs should bring back the captain title specifically for him. 

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No matter what, The Cubs rescued Rizzo from what would have been a terrible stretch in San Diego. They’ve finished no higher than third in the division in that time, while the Cubs have gone to the NLCS three straight times and won back-to-back division titles.

There’s no way that Epstein could have envisioned just how well his first deal with the Cubs would go. I’d say he got an A, even though at times it hurt to watch the Cubs lose–he always had a plan.

*Editors note: Two other players changed teams on that day, but neither ever made the majors. So we’ve called it a “wash” as to the rest of that trade.