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Cubs Acquire Garza, But Give Up Prospects Galore to Make it Happen — Wrigley Field 1/7/11

Posted on 07 January 2011 by Lou

Will this move be a sort of “redemption” for GM Jim Hendry, or will it ultimately cost him his job?  Hendry and the Cubs have 2 years to figure it all out.

The Cubs and Rays have agreed upon a trade that will send ace Matt Garza from the Rays to the Cubs.  Garza has emerged as a legitimate major league pitcher and he put an exclamation point on his 2010 numbers with a no-hitter back on July 26th – the 1st in Rays’ history.  During the 2010 MLB schedule, Garza went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  He is only 27 years old and he has never had an ERA over 4.00 — that in the power hitting AL East with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.  He has started at least 30 games each of the last 3 seasons and he does not free agency for another 3 years — that means a nice competitive salary for a top of the line starter.  He will likely earn a raise from his 2010 $3.35 million salary.

The Cubs did have to give up several top prospects, but as we know with prospects – even can’t miss ones (see Mark Prior) — you just never really know.

Starter Chris Archer was the key to this deal.  He is only 22 years old and he was the Cubs best minor league pitcher in 2010 — 15-3 record with a 2.34 ERA in 28 games at the Single-A and Double-A levels.

Outfielder Brandon Guyer was the Cubs top position player in the minor leagues in 2010.  He had a .344 batting average with 13 HR’s and 58 RBI’s for Double-A Tennessee and is only 24 years old.

Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee had a promising season at Single-A Peoria – .282 batting average with 32 stolen bases.  But let’s face it, Starlin Castro is going to be playing shortstop for the Cubs for years and years to come, so unless Castro was willing to move over to 3rd base to make room for Lee, Lee was going to have to be dealt or switch positions in order to get to the big leagues.

The Rays also got Sam Fuld who is your prototypical reserve outfielder at the major league level.  And Catcher Robinson Chirinos has had success at both the Double-A (.318 batting average, 15 HR’s and 64 RBI’s) and Triple-A (.364 batting average, 3 HR’s and 10 RBI’s) levels in 2010.

Given the salary constraints the Hendry has placed on the Cubs pocketbooks for the foreseeable future (at least 2 more seasons, and even then, the Cubs will still owe Alfonso Soriano 1 more year of salary during the 2013 MLB season), this was a nice little move for the Cubs.  As we know, anything can happen with “top prospects”.  Sure Castro, Colvin and Cashner look like major league fixtures for the foreseeable, but at least for the Cubs, that seems more like the exception to the rule to have a top prospect be successful at the major league level during the Hendry regime.  The Cubs have been better of late making good draft selections and developing those players within the minor league system, so even though they have traded away a few potentially “nice pieces” they should be able to “re-stock” those pieces if they have been doing their job the right way.

The addition of Garza gives the Cubs a nice duo at the type, assuming Carlos Zambrano has his head on straight in 2011.  Ryan Dempster is a nice #3 and if Randy Wells can bounce back from a disappointing sophomore slump, you have a nice 4-man rotation going.  Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny or Andrew Cashner would round out the 5th spot in the rotation.  Assuming Gorzelanny and Cashner are healthy and look good in the spring, that could also give the Cubs a little flexibility in moving a Silva or Zambrano (even if it means eating some of their salary) to replenish the farm system a little.  A deal with the New York Yankees who still don’t know if Andy Pettitte is going to return for 2011 or retire seems like a perfect fit for a move like that.  Only time will tell if this is the move that saves Hendry’s career…

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