Matt Garza has traded hands multiple times in his big league career, the first sending him to Tampa Bay along with Jason Bartlett in the six piece trade that sent soon-to-be-dud Delmon Young to Minnesota.
This is not the trade we're evaluating, it was a clear win for the Rays, but I miss him, so stick with me.
Matt Garza was one of my favorite pitchers in Tampa Bay, and not just for his no-hitter (the first in franchise history), but for his sheer unpredictability. 40% of the time, the crane was poised for two-hit shut out games like we saw last night from Matt Moore in Boston. The rest of the time, you were lucky for six innings. Pulling for Matt Garza was a roller coaster ride (as were my opinions on that Duke mascot goatee).
Garza would earn the MVP trophy in the 2008 ALCS, after dismantling the Red Sox over two starts, and played three seasons for the Rays through 2010, with a 3.86 ERA and a 2.3 K/BB ratio over his career.
The Rays Perspective
With three seasons of arbitration remaining, a process already begun in 2010 thanks to his Super 2 status, the Rays shipped the soon to be expensive hurler to the North Side of Chicago for the best of their farm: Their best pitching prospect Chris Archer, high ceiling A-ball short stop Hak-Ju Lee, catching prospect Robinson Chirinos, intriguing outfield prospect Brandon Guyer, and super-defensive fourth outfielder Sam Fuld (or as my Cubbie friends called him, "The guy who runs into walls"). The other cost to the Rays was their own fourth outfielder, the Poet, Fernando Perez.
Sam Fuld made his immediate impact on the Rays roster, quickly becoming a Legend for his reckless antics in the outfield, with efforts made to catch just about anything, and a cannon for an arm. He settled into his role quickly.
Chris Archer came with control concerns and the ability to throw high heat. With so may injuries plaguing the starting rotation, Archer has done exactly what he's been needed to: 10 games, 2.76 ERA, including an 8 K complete game shut out on July 14th.
The rest of the haul has not been so fortunate.
Hak-Ju Lee may have been considered the best prospect in the system right now, but a devastating slide took out his knee at Triple-A Durham, and his status will be unknown until next season. He has a short swing that continues to impress for productive results at the plate, and his defense is more than enough to brag about. It's a shame we won't know his true status for so long.
After brief, albeit successful, stints in the majors, Chirinos and Guyer were also sidelined.
Robinson Chirinos was set to take the reins at catcher from John Jaso (including the organization shipping Jaso out for a reliever) before a freak foul tipped ball struck Chirinos in the mask, and leaving a detrimental concussion. The Rays would eventually send him to the Rangers for cash considerations when the 40-man roster proved too full to carry a middling catcher.
Brandon Guyer was welcomed to the Show last season after injuries piled onto the starting roster, and he performed well enough to stay in the field, but that was before his left shoulder -- which had ailed him his entire career since it was dislocated late in his college career - gave out on a dive in center field. He would require seven anchors to reset his labrum. Guyer has recovered quickly, and returned in time for Spring Training. He is currently batting .296/,366/.437 over 86 games, and his only locked in the minors by a lack of injuries this season.
So what has been the Rays' true haul?
Thanks to the Garza trade, the Rays immediately benefited by having room to start Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation, saved cash in the future salary shortly owed to Garza, boasted a defensive genius off the bench in Sam Fuld, found a future ace in Chris Archer (FA in 2019), and have possible depth in Guyer (ready in Triple-A) and Lee (if/when he recovers).
The Cubs Perspective
This team was somewhat doomed from the beginning. Garza arrived with the confirmation bias of a 9.0 K/9 ratio in 2011, but failed to lead the Cubs anywhere on his own. Chicago did they're normal swipe at contention before turning into sellers at the deadline each of the last three seasons. One great pitcher does not a team make.
The Cubs may have shipped Garza out earlier, but fluid built up in his triceps and prevented a move from happening until now; however, this has its advantages. With all but one starting pitcher on the Disabled List, the Rangers were desperate to save their Wild Card contention, so perhaps the return is better for Chicago than it might have been otherwise.
The Rangers sent packing big-league participating prospect RHP Justin Grimm, Class-A starter RHP C.J. Edwards, thumping infielder Mike Olt, and your usual PTBNL's (two).
Olt immediately provides depth the Cubs have been looking for at third base. A former short stop with plus defense at either position left of the second base bag, Olt comes along with 70-grade power (20-80 scale), and the promise of 25-30 home runs when healthy. That's the catch. Olt has had vision problems this season, and the deal almost fell through on that merit. A faulty tearduct has kept him from what he was before this season...
Grimm, a somewhat underrated aspect to this trade, if you consider him still a prospect. More of a fifth starter right now, his fastball, change up, and curve have left much to be desired upon reaching the majors, particularly the movement on the former two pitches. He would be suited well with some time in Triple-A, a luxury Grimm missed out on this season due to injuries.
Edwards is a beast in the low minors, with 122 strikeouts over 93 innings of Low-A thus far. Drafted in the 48th round(!), Edwards is a wild card pitching prospect and the antithesis of Grimm; based on age, status, and what makes him great. He has plus marks on his pitches, particularly a 12-6 curve, with potential to pump into the high nineties on his fastball, and a decent change graded at 55, though his build is not typical (6' 2", 155 lbs).
Then there's two PTBNL's for filler.
And best of all for Chicago, they lost out on say 10-12 starts from Garza. This is a team in rebuild, they didn't need Garza now or in the immediate future. Not flipping him would have been quite the opportunity cost.
The Rangers Perspective
Here's a team with four starting pitchers on the disabled list, and plenty of relievers to boot. The acquisition of Garza gives them better odds than Grimm as they pursue the A's and the second Wild Card slot. And that worked out great last season...
Let's say the Rangers qualify for the post season. Depending on injuries, Garza would be the no. 3 or 4 starter over the Series hunt. Better insurance than most, I suppose. When the season ends, Garza leaves. Retaining his talents will take a multi-year contract with lots of dollar signs.
Meanwhile, you've shipped off decent starting pitching depth (Grimm), a decent front line pitching prospect (Edwards), and vision problems aside, your best replacement infielder (sorry Chris McGuinness). Injuries this year to Beltre or next year to anyone in the starting rotation will make this trade hurt, immediately.
And then there's the PTBNL's. Will those be top-30 prospects?
Unless you just have money to throw at problems, I'm not happy if I'm a Rangers fan.
Personally, if I'm judging who won or loss these trades, I'm pegging the Rays as the winners. They won on Garza's acquisition, got meaningful (postseason relevant) performances for three years, and walked away with four prospects, all with major league potential (if not for injuries), plus the immediate roleplay contributions of Sam Fuld. They had the depth to survive Garza's departure, and are still reaping the benefits.
But what say you?