This weekend the Cubs and Rays, my two favorite teams, finalized a deal that sent a slew of minor league talent to Tampa and a front line starting pitcher the Cubs. Fellow Sweet Spot blogger, Mark Hilig, brought up the idea of collaborating on a post to give both sides of the trade. He’s taken the time to write a little about the players the Rays have given up, complete with a conclusion from the Rays perspective, and I’ve done the same from the Cubs perspective. Hopefully this will lead to good discussion. I wanna hear your take.
Matt Garza – Garza is a wildly entertaining pitcher to watch that should remind Cubs fans of Carlos Zambrano. Well, more precisely Carlos Zambrano with the benefit of psychological therapy. Garza let his emotions control him when the Rays initially acquired him in 2008 — even getting into a shoving match with catcher Dioner Navarro in Arlington that sent Navarro down a flight of stairs into the tunnel. But, at the Rays’ request he spent time with a sports psychologist that helped him balance his emotional state through physical reminders such as wearing ear plugs and looking at his children’s initials on the bill of his cap at the start of each inning. (Unfortunately, the psychologist wasn’t able to remedy his incredibly disgusting habit of spitting every two seconds. He’s like the Leo Mazzone of saliva). First basemen Carlos Pena also had a calming effect on Garza when an inning started to spin out of control, a relationship that should continue in Chicago. When Garza is good, he doesn’t shake off the catcher and he throws his breaking ball for strikes. Basically, he just throws. In fact, that is why I nicknamed him Nuke LaGarza earlier this year. (http://therayarea.com/nuke-lagarza). He does give up a lot of fly balls (65% of balls in play in 2010) and benefited from the Rays’ defense in 2010 (3.91 ERA/4.42 FIP ERA in 2010) but will be a great addition for the Cubs.
Fernando Perez – I am especially sorry to see Fernando leave the organization, even though his departure for the National League is probably long overdue. Perez is a Columbia alum and a published poet. He has a unique view on the world, is one of the most quotable players in the game, and has an incredibly entertaining Twitter feed. (www.twitter.com/outfieldrambler) all of which will be missed by the media that covers the Rays. Perez was a 2008 September call-up that made enough of an impression in 23 games (106 OPS+ and 5 SB in 5 attempts) to make the postseason roster and appear in 5 postseason games. The following spring, he seemed likely to make the big-league club in spring training until he broke his wrist diving for a line drive in the 8th inning of a game and missed the first two or three months of the season. Perez spent all of 2010 in AAA due in part to his limited offensive ability. He runs well and is a solid defensive outfielder that has trouble getting on base. He seems like a great substitute outfielder for the national league game that can pinch-run and be part of a double-switch.
Zach Rosscup – Rosscup appears to be a throw-in to seal the deal, possibly intended to replenish the suddenly depleted Cubs farm system. He was a mid-round pick in 2009 (28th round) and has shown the ability to miss bats in two pro season. He fanned 27 hitters in 40.1 innings during his short-season stay with the Rookie League Princeton Rays and punched out 41 hitters in 44.1 innings between the Gulf Coast League and NY-Penn League.
Rays Conclusion – As I wrote on Friday, I love this trade for the Rays. Jeremy Hellickson can take Garza’s place in the rotation (and maybe even outperform him according to the Zips projections that predict Hellickson throwing 135 innings with a 3.58 ERA in 2011 while Garza was projected for 208 innings with a 3.84 ERA in 2011). It also frees up cash for the Rays to get a one-year deal on a right-handed DH like Vladimir Guerrero or Jim Thome. And, most importantly, it uses the Rays strength in starting pitching to patch up four areas of need in the organization. Based on Joe’s analysis, this might be one of the few deals in recent memories where both teams address vital areas of need and get better in the process.
Chris Archer – He seems to be the focal point of the deal for the Rays. Everything I read pointed to the idea that he was a must have if the deal was going to be consummated. He was originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 5th round of the 2006 draft, but disappointed enough to become expendable when the Indians wanted Mark DeRosa. He was shipped to the Cubs along with John Gaub and Jeff Stevens. He spent 2010 between Daytona (A+) and Tennessee (AA) and combined for a 15-3 record with a 2.34 ERA. The biggest challenge facing Archer at this point is his command. He still walks too many hitters. If he can continue to work on that and develop his third pitch (changeup), he has the makings of a low end # 2 or high end # 3 starter in my opinion. I like him a lot primarily because he’s young (just 22 yrs old) and he went to H.S. right near my house. He’s a tough one to loose, but I don’t see him being better than Garza.
Hak-Ju Lee – Lee seems to be getting over looked by a lot of people that have written about this deal. The Cubs signed him from S. Korea in 2008 and have been hyping up the fact that he has the ability to supplant Starlin Castro at SS. That’s pretty high praise, but he has the type of range that can warrant the praise. If he meets his potential, he’ll be a guy that plays above average defense at short, but lacks the arm strength to be an elite SS. He won’t hit the ball out of the ballpark, but he’ll get on base and be able to use his speed on the bases.
Brandon Guyer – Guyer broke out in 2010 and hit the ball so well that he was named the Minor League Player of the Year in the Cubs system. What people forget is that until 2010, his hitting was less than spectacular. He’s an athletic player that can steal bases well. I’m concerned that his lack of discipline at the plate might get him overmatched at the big league level. If he can work on that, there are opportunities to make a difference in the OF in Tampa.
Robinson Chirinos – If Geovany Soto was not in Chicago and if Jim Hendry wasn’t in love with non-hitting backup, Koyie Hill, Chirinos would probably be in line for a shot with the Cubs in 2010. I clamored for him to get a chance last year over Wellington Castillo, but for some reasons no one listened. I’m excited to see what he can do with Tampa. He’s got some power in his bat and can draw walks at the plate. He plays average defense behind the plate, but has a great arm that translated into 30+% caught stealing in 2010. At this point, he deserves a chance to play with Tampa.
Sam Fuld – Fuld reminds me a lot of Fernando Perez. He’s never going to be a starting outfielder in this league, but he has the makeup to be a productive guy on a part time basis because of his good baseball sense. He has tremendous patience and discipline at the plate that at one point translated into him being recognized as being top in the system in that area. He can play all three OF positions, but is probably best suited for CF. He runs the bases well can use his speed as an asset to make up for his lack of power. He’s out of minor league options, so that bears watching come spring training. He’ll need to make this club or risk being lost on waivers.
Joe’s Conclusion – From a Cubs standpoint, I like the trade. We get an upper rotation starter, which was sorely needed to help counter some of the moves made in the division. Garza is under our control for cheap for three more years, which allows flexibility given the bad contracts that are currently on the books. In return, we give up a starter that could be as good as Garza, but might not meet those projections, and players at positions where there wasn’t room to play. Chirinos is blocked by Soto. Lee is blocked by Castro. Guyer is blocked by Soriano, Byrd, Fukudome and Colvin. Fuld had not place on the roster no matter what. It’s dealing from a strength to fill a need. It’s a welcome change to see the Cubs deal prospects while they’re still high in value rather than wait until they bust like we’ve seen with guys like Rich Hill, Felix Pie, and Corey Patterson.
Buddy’s conclusion – I’m a long-time Garza fan, even during his highly publicized meltdowns. He’s got tremendous stuff, he’s been very durable, and his contract is Cub-friendly. He should be a solid, occasionally spectacular, NL starter.
Certain baseball writers think the Cubs gave up way too much for Garza, but I just don’t see it. Sam Fuld is a dime-a-dozen utility outfielder. Chris Archer pitched well in A and AA ball, but the Cubs are loaded with young arms. Robinson Chirinos hit very well at AA, but he’s been in their minor league system for 10 years, managing only 79 home runs in 2,900 at bats. Guyer has been up and down in four minor league seasons, including a very “up” 2010. His low walk total is a concern.
And now we come to Mr. Lee. Smarter people than yours truly love him as a prospect. After all, he’s only 20 years old and has impressive patience at the plate. However, Lee slugged an embarrassing .351 in Peoria last season. I know he’s young, but the caliber of pitching in low A ball is dreadful. If I worked in the Rays’ front office, I would be worried about his ability to swing the bat as he moves up the ladder. However, time is on his side.
Even if Lee becomes an everyday Major League shortstop, I still like this deal for the Cubs, who already have a superstar in the making at short. The Cubs may not be the NL Central favorites, but they just got a lot better. Nice move, Jim.