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Garza to Cubs, Rays Reloading

Matt Garza
This news is a little bit old, but between working and watching the Seahawks, this post had to wait. The Cubs acquired Matt Garza from the Rays in an eight-player swap. The other seven players involved are minor-leaguers, though some have accumulated time in the majors.

Chicago acquired two other players along with Garza. Here are brief looks at both of them:
  • OF Fernando Perez - Perez has some speed, which likely means defense too, because he can't really hit. He will walk some, but that's almost concerning. The strikeouts are still remarkably high, even with plate discipline, suggesting that there are some serious holes in his swing. At 26 years old, Perez likely is what he is, and that's a pinch-runner/defensive replacement at best. He is minor league depth.
  • LHP Zach Rosscup - Rosscup is a classic throw-in. He is rather young (22 years old), with few professional innings, all in the lower levels of the minors. The innings he has logged have been productive. Some Cubs scout must like something about Rosscup, because there is nothing to go off of (good or bad) with his professional production so far.
Now, on to the five players the Rays received in the trade:
  • OF Sam Fuld - Fuld is not the centerpiece of the Rays return, but from what I can tell he is the Fernando Perez replacement. Fuld is a couple years older at 28, and has a total of 128 at-bats in the majors the past two seasons. Sam's best attribute is probably his head. He walked almost twice as much as he struck out in AAA last year, and for most of his minor league career has stolen bags at a high percentage rate. He isn't flashy, or frankly even that good, but could become known as a "security blanket" type of guy as a fifth or sixth outfielder.
  • C Robinson Chirinos - Chirinos intrigues me a little. He is a bit older, at 26, but seems to have made significant strides as a hitter the past few years. The numbers could be a bit of a mirage, given his age, but extra base hits and walks have gone up, while the strikeouts have gone down. He might pair nicely with John Jaso for an underrated backstop combo.
  • OF Brandon Guyer - Guyer had a breakout year in AAA in 2010, highlighted by a .344 average with some power (13 home runs) and speed (30 steals). He is 23, which is a bit old for AA, which likely helped him. Still, throughout his minor league career, he has flashed speed, power, and average at times. He has the raw tools to become a nice player. Either Guyer started to put it all together in 2010, or had a particularly hot stretch. We will have a better idea which happened this upcoming season.
  • RHP Chris Archer - The knock on Archer is his control. He has always posted high walk rates in the minors. However, he also posts good strikeout rates, and seems to be becoming harder and harder to hit. In 142.1 innings between high-A and AA in 2010, he allowed just 102 hits, and that rate actually got a tad better when he jumped up a level. Just how much Archer's control develops might decide if he finds a home in the bullpen or the rotation. He could hit the majors next season, but if he stays a starter, I think he might be more of a coming attraction in 2012. Either way, Archer is a good arm, and could end up being a rather respectable replacement for Garza straight-up.
  • SS Hak-Ju Lee - The best was probably saved for last. Lee turned 20 years old in November, and he is still quite young and raw. However, the tools are obvious and exciting. Scouts rave about his defense, and there is little doubt that he can stick at shortstop. In addition, while Lee is yet to show much power, he has hit for pretty good average so far, with respectable walk and strikeout numbers. This is despite being rather young for the leagues he has played in, and likely dealing with a pretty big jump in competition. He was signed out of South Korea as a 17-year-old. In the Cubs defense, they already have Starlin Castro at shortstop, so Lee was expendable. Still, bona fide shortstop prospects are harder to come by than the Matt Garzas of the world...
Even though Garza upgrades Chicago's starting rotation, and I expect him to do well in Wrigley, this trade favors the Rays. This is a deal they couldn't refuse. Now Jeremy Hellickson has a place in the rotation, and he has a chance to match Garza's production anyway. Even if he doesn't, a bounce-back season from James Shields is likely. Tampa's rotation is as good now as it was with Garza moving forward.

More importantly, the Rays farm system is reloading. It has to be their pipeline with their miniscule payroll, so this is even more noteworthy than with most franchises. Along with this trade, they also traded Jason Bartlett to the Padres about a month ago for four pitchers, the oldest being 27-year-old Adam Russell (who is MLB ready). While Bartlett was good with the Rays, Reid Brignac is a more-than-able replacement. So, in two trades that arguably did not hurt Tampa's 2011 roster, they acquired 9 (!) younger players.

That's not all though. Right now, Tampa Bay has 7 of the top 100 picks in the 2011 MLB draft, which is considered one of the stronger drafts in recent memory. The Rays will also receive compensatory picks once Chad Qualls and Rafael Soriano sign elsewhere too, so that number should climb to nine, if not double-digits.

The Rays have lost a bunch this offseason. It's hard to believe they will be better without Garza, Bartlett, Qualls, Soriano, Carl Crawford, and Carlos Pena. They won't be, but they will be respectable.

However, the Rays have gained a bunch too. They had 5 top-100 draft picks in 2010. Adding those to all the prospects added in trades this offseason, along with the all the top picks they have in the 2011 draft, gives them literally a roster of prospects that will be added to the organization in a calendar year span. That's how to win with a small-market team.