Some more thoughts on the Matt Garza trade

Even though the Cubs are more known for their failures, mistakes and screw-ups, every once in awhile you have to give them credit. We probably should do so more than we have, but the acquisition of Matt Garza is one we definitely have to view differently than we did at the time. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was a good deal. I’m not entirely sure if it was, but the Cubs saw something in Matt Garza and were confident they could make him a better pitcher than he had been. We constantly read about how Garza was an ace and even Jim Hendry said it. The Cubs thought they got one and we looked at the numbers and realized they more than likely got an overrated pitcher.

What we couldn’t consider is the information the Cubs scouting department had on Garza. The journalists are way too lazy to look into such things when they could write article after article about Alfonso Soriano being lazy. I think it’s clear by now that the scouts saw something as Garza has not only been a much better pitcher, but also an entirely different one. We know this because during Garza’s early struggles with regards to runs allowed (not strikeouts, walks and home runs), he complained that what they had him doing differently wasn’t working. He backtracked on those comments and said he’d continue to do what they have him doing. Why the Tampa Bay Rays, known for their player development, didn’t spot this is beyond me, but there’s no question that the Cubs saw a pitcher who would be much better than he had been.

As a result, it must change our opinion of the deal. 

“Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late.” – Branch Rickey

We can’t be sure what Rickey meant when he said this, but there is evidence to suggest that players perform worse after being traded. The obvious reason why this is true would be that teams know more about the player or players they’re trading than the team acquiring them does. In this case, it appears as though the Cubs knew a lot more about Garza than did the Rays. 

Most of what the Rays acquired in return for Garza was basically a minor league roster filler. Robinson Chirinos is 27 already and he’s not had nearly as good a season in the minors this year as last. Sam Fuld‘s value is entirely defensive and we know how unreliable defensive metrics are from season to season. The Rays got a hot start from Fuld and have made the mistake of continuing to play him. He’s gotten nearly 250 plate appearances since April 24th and has a .577 OPS to show for it. 

Brandon Guyer has put together another excellent season, this time at AAA, but he’s 25 years old and has only gotten a very breif call up to the big leagues. You can’t help but wonder why a 25 year old outfielder hitting so well is left in the minor leagues. It reminds me of Marquez Smith but obviously there was something the scouts and analysts did not like about him as he’s never gotten a chance. Smith. Smith, now 26 years old, has hit .282/.356/.476 in his minor league career (just under 2000 plate appearances). Guyer has hit .297/.361/.473 in 1855 plate appearances. He’s primarily been a corner outfielder, which is a less valuable defensive position than the 3rd base that Smith plays. Smith’s offense has been equal, but he plays a more valuable position. Both are old for their levels, have hit well, but never given a chance. There’s something there that we’re missing.

Chris Archer has remained at AA all season and has taken a big step. After joining the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa trade, Archer’s hits per 9 dropped to a little less than 6.5. This year it’s jumped back to 9.1. He allowed only 6 home runs in just over 250 innings in the Cubs organization. He’s allowed 11 in 134 this season. His walks per 9 fell below 5 with the Cubs and jumped to 5.4 this year. He struckout nearly 10 batters per 9 innings with the Cubs and is now striking out just 7.9 per 9. That’s lower than at any point in his career. Archer is still just 22, but he’s taken a big step back this year. Prior to joining the Cubs the scouting report on him was that he’d likely be a reliever. The Cubs turned him into someone who had the potential to be a top of the rotation and starter and from what I can tell, he’s back to being a reliever.

Hak-Ju Lee had a great season in High A after a somewhat disappointing 2010. He’s now in AA and has struggled in his first 50 or so plate appearances, which isn’t uncommon. Especially for someone his age. He’s easily the prize the Rays acquired in this trade and likely the only one who is going to provide much value to them in the future. When Sam Fuld becomes the second best player you acquired for someone like Matt Garza, I’m not exactly sure the Rays can call that trade a win. 

The Cubs also acquired two other players in Fernando Perez who has been released and Zachary Rosscup who injured. Prior to his injury, Rosscup was putting together a very strong season. 

I don’t know that the Cubs can call the the trade a win either, but as of right now, they come ahead in this. A lot can change if Lee develops as scouts think he can. If he does, the Rays win the trade easily, but if he doesn’t, there’s little chance they do. Considering the Cubs have Starlin Castro at SS, they didn’t really need Lee anyway. Based on what we know right now I’d just say that it was a decent trade. Both teams have a chance to be better as a result of it. That’s how most trades are designed.