About five years ago -- an epoch in Internet time -- there was a stray Tim Lincecum-for-Jay Bruce rumor floating around. I'm not sure where it started, or how serious it was, but it was out there. Giants fans freaked out, of course. I'm sure Reds fans did too. No one likes rumors about their special-snowflake players. I remembered the rumor after Lincecum's first and second Cy Youngs. "Boy", I'd think, "I'm sure glad that deal never happened."
In 2012, though, Bruce has been the more valuable player. By a bunch. And even without looking at contracts or team control, it's possible -- likely? -- that a 25-year-old Bruce is the better bet for sustained success going forward. And that trade rumor doesn't look lopsided at all to Giants fans. And if Lincecum ever figures out what's going on, maybe the rumor pendulum will swing back toward the ridiculous.
Point being: It's always silly to evaluate trades right away. It's silly to evaluate them three years after. We have to do it because we're fans -- and what's the point if we're not having fun with the analysis? -- but it doesn't age well.
Right after the Padres traded Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs for Andrew Cashner, I'm sure I wrote something snarky about the Padres getting a sore-shouldered reliever for their most valuable trade chip. It was a confusing trade at best. And now that Rizzo is up with the Cubs after melting the Pacific Coast League, it'd seem like a good time to revisit that position. Because Rizzo looks like a serious talent. And, well, Cashner isn't even in the majors right now. Strip everything of context, and this looks like a miserable trade already for the Padres.
Ah, but that pesky context. Cashner is in the minors right now for a good reason -- he's getting stretched out to become a starter. And so far, the stretching's going quite well.
The Texas League is still a long way from the majors, so it's not like the 25-year-old is some sort of guaranteed success now. But things are going well with the transition. When that sore-shouldered reliever showed up with the Padres, he started doing unfair things with the baseball. Not in the Joel Peralta sense. Rather, the Stephen Strasburg sense. Turns out his shoulder was fine. Fastballs over 100. Quick, late-breaking sliders. His control is more than a minor concern, but everything else looks stellar.
For the next few months, there will be a temptation to judge the Cashner/Rizzo trade after every Rizzo home run or six-walk Cashner outing. And that's perfectly okay. That's what baseball fans and writers do. No shame in it.
Just as long as you know it can look absurd in the future -- before it looks rational before it looks absurd again -- you'll be fine. I'm just pleased that we get one of these kinds of trades every so often: a youngster-for-youngster deal that links the two players forever. Roberto Alomar and Fred McGriff. Josh Hamilton and Edinson Volquez. Delmon Young and Matt Garza. Risky, interesting deals for both sides, with all sorts of ways to look brilliant or moronic.
(An aside: What I'd really be interested in is a list of deals the Padres turned down. What did the Rays offer? Did they offer anything at all? That's the kind of thing that'll come out in a stray interview 15 years down the line. So I'll just sit here and wait.)
Rizzo's up, and entirely too much will be made of his first month. There were Internet-type people claiming he was already a AAAA-washout because of his rough start last year. And if he doesn't go off in his first month, those whispers will start again, only about three or four years too soon. But if he starts hitting, some rumblings from a few Padres fans will start up. It sure looks like a good deal for the Cubs right now.
We might not know for a decade. For now, at least, it's one of the more interesting trades in recent memory. It'll be fun to pretend like we know how it turned out over the next couple of years.