Another starting pitcher came off the trade market on Friday, as the Rays traded starter Matt Garza and minor leaguers Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup to the Cubs in exchange for prospects Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer, Hak-Ju Lee, and Sam Fuld.
The Cubs acquire Garza coming off what was probably his best season to date, as he posted a 15-10 record with a 3.91 ERA, 150 strikeouts and a 1.25 WHIP for the Rays. They will add him to a rather deep rotation already, with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva, and Randy Wells likely to hold spots. Also in competition for a rotation spot for the Cubs are Andrew Cashner, Tom Gorzelanny, and possibly Sean Marshall.
The reason that Garza cost so much in terms of players has to be how long Garza remains under team control. He is eligible for arbitration for the second time this offseason, but was classified as a Super-Two, and will remain under team control until 2014. He gives the Cubs a young, controlled excellent starting pitcher who will likely be the leader of the staff come 2013.
I think he’s also likely to improve on his numbers, as he moves from the AL East to the NL Central. Realistically, there are no lineups with the depth of quality of the Red Sox and Yankees in the NL Central. Getting to pick on the Pirates and Astros, as well as facing the pitcher in nearly every start should help him out a lot.
Fernando Perez spent the entire 2010 season in AAA, and is not really a prospect at this point. He’ll be 28 during the 2011 season, and seems to profile as a 4th or 5th outfielder who could provide speed off the bench. His 2010 season definitely did not do him any favors, as he hit .223/.280/.299 in 116 games. His speed has definitely been his best tool in the past, as he has stolen at least 24 bases in each minor league season (excluding his injury wrecked 2009 season). He seems unlikely to get a lot of playing time with the Cubs, but can probably fill that pinch-runner/defensive replacement role for the team this year.
Zach Rosscup was a 28th round draft pick by the Rays in 2009, and had a solid pair of seasons in the low minors. Based on his numbers, his best tool seems to be solid control, as he has posted a 68:15 strikeout to walk rate in 84 2/3 minor league innings. He seems like a bit of a throw in to the trade, but I would like to see what he can do next year in a full season league.
Tampa Bay Rays
The top player in return for this trade has to be pitching prospect Chris Archer. Archer was recently ranked by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Cubs system, and had a great season last year between High-A and AA. In 28 appearances (27 starts, 1 relief), Archer threw 142.1 innings, posting a 15-3 record while striking out 149. His walk total concerns me a bit (65 last season between both levels. He seems likely to start 2011 at AA.
Hak-Ju Lee was the 4th ranked prospect on that same list, and finished his first full season league in 2010. He posted a .282/.354/.351 line with 32 stolen bases last year in the Midwest League, and was probably young for his level (just 19 last year). It really seems like Lee is going to profile as a decent hitter with speed, but not power. And the scouting reports out there seem to agree on one thing: Lee is going to be an excellent defender.
Lee is the type of defender that already looks like a Gold Glove at shortstop. And it would be only this type of player that could displace a player like Castro at shortstop. He’s that special on the defensive side of things. He has a plus arm, which allows him to complete some spectacular plays. What’s most impressive is how easy he makes some of these difficult plays look.
I have to imagine Lee will either start this year at High-A, or possibly AA.
Brandon Guyer was the 3rd prospect in the Cubs’ top 10, as he was the 10th prospect. Guyer repeated AA in 2010, but thrived. He hit .344/.398/.588 with 13 HR, 30 SB in just 102 games. He was a bit old for the competition level, as he was 24 throughout the season, but not terribly so. He had a walk to strikeout rate last year of 27 to 51, not exactly what I’d want to see in terms of plate discipline at that level. But he definitely appears to be a solid prospect, and seems likely to start 2011 at AAA.
Robinson Chirinos actually interests me the most of any of the players they received. He is older than the rest of the players received, as he will be 27 in 2011. But he has only been catching full-time for the last 2 seasons really, and looks like he will provide solid offense from that position. Between AA and AAA last year, he hit .326/.416/.583 with 18 HR and 74 RBI in just 92 games played. He threw out 32% of base stealers in 2010, but still allowed 60 steals in just 85 games behind the plate. I am thinking that he will probably spend the full season at AAA in 2011, as he continues to develop as a catcher.
Sam Fuld really seems like he was just acquired to replace Fernando Perez as a possible 5th outfielder. He’ll be 29 this year, but has only played in 98 games in the Majors to this point. At this point, he seems like a 5th outfielder type, who can provide some speed, defense, and maybe a little bit of pop off of the bench for a Major League team.
Overall, I really like this trade for the Rays. They had a clear wealth of depth in the starting rotation, as they will have Jeremy Hellickson step right into the rotation spot vacated by the trade of Garza, and traded from that position of strength. They have received a player who could be their future shortstop, future catcher, and another excellent pitching prospect.
I am not as sure why the Cubs made this trade. The starting rotation of the Cubs is actually one of the teams’ strengths at this point, and while I think Garza is an upgrade over all of the starters except maybe Zambrano and Dempster, they seemed to have emptied a large portion of their system to make the trade. This definitely gives them a very strong top 3 starters, all of whom are going to be under team control through at least the next 2 seasons.
It concerns me a bit for the Cubs, as they really need to get younger while they rebuild. They did trade from depth, as they have young players already manning shortstop and catcher. But there’s something about this trade that I just don’t like for the Cubs. They definitely received an excellent player in Garza, but I think it may have been an odd step for a team that doesn’t really seem like it is built to truly compete in 2011.
Overall, I think it was a solid trade for both teams, with the Rays doing better.