01/08/11 6:53 PM EST
Rays complete big deal with Cubs for Garza
Tampa Bay receives five prospects in trade for right-hander
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Friday proved to be a whirlwind media day discussing the eight-player deal between the Rays and the Cubs, which had been hammered out in concept, but could not be finalized until after all of the players had passed physicals. By Saturday afternoon, everything was in line for the deal to be completed.
Garza, along with outfielder Fernando Perez and left-hander Zach Rosscup, were sent to the Cubs in exchange for right-hander Chris Archer, outfielder Brandon Guyer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Sam Fuld.
"Simply said, we really like the deal a lot -- it kind of fits in with our short-term and long-term objectives," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "It's a perfect win-win trade for both sides or we wouldn't have done it.
"We didn't set out to trade a starter this offseason, but as you can imagine teams called about different guys. And looking at our depth chart we listened as we always do when teams express interest. We had numerous conversations, some surface level, others more serious. This one gained a lot of momentum in the past few days and really worked because of what both sides set out to do and were able to accomplish."
Friedman said the deal in no way is a reflection of the team's intentions for 2011 -- the Rays still plan to field a contending team. And team president Matt Silverman maintained the deal was not financially motivated.
Because of the thin starting-pitching market and Tampa Bay's rotation depth, Garza has drawn plenty of interest this offseason, with Chicago apparently being interested in the righty since the Winter Meetings.
Garza, who was the MVP of the 2008 American League Championship Series, went 15-10 for the Rays last season with a 3.91 ERA, which included the first no-hitter in team history against the Tigers in late July. He made $3.35 million in 2010 and is arbitration-eligible, which puts him in a solid position to receive a sizeable raise this year.
The trade opens the door for top pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson to join a crowded starting rotation, which was six deep until Garza's departure.
Archer, 22, appears to be the top prospect in the deal. He has been through the trade process before, getting sent from Cleveland to Chicago in the Mark DeRosa deal at the end of 2008. The '06 Draft pick repeated Class A ball during his first season in the Cubs' organization, finishing with a 2.81 ERA and .202 batting average against in 109 innings with Peoria in the Midwest League.
His stock rose during this past season. The right-hander split time between Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, and was even better when he got up to the tougher Southern League. Combined, he won the organizational pitching triple crown with a 15-3 record, 2.34 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 142 1/3 innings. He capped things off by beating Cuba in a Pan Am Qualifying Tournament, earning him a nod from USA Baseball for the international performance of the year. After the season, Baseball America ranked Archer the Cubs' top prospect and the team named him its 2010 Pitcher of the Year for its Minor Leagues.
The key to Archer's success in 2010 was improved fastball command. He still walked 65 in '10, but he has improved his walk rate in each of the past two seasons. When he's able to locate his above-average to plus fastball, his plus slider becomes even better. He's also improved his changeup quite a bit, giving him an effective three-pitch mix. Archer is a tremendous competitor with an off-the-charts makeup. He could start the year in a very good Double-A Montgomery rotation and move from there.
"It's awesome being a major peiece in any trade is cool," Archer told MLB.com. "For it to be for a No. 1 starter, that makes you feel good. Not saying I feel secure by any means, because I have a lot of work to do, but you definitely go in with your head held high."
Lee, 20, hit .282 with a home run, 42 RBIs and 32 stolen bases in 122 games for Peoria; Lee ranked fourth in Baseball America's rankings of the Cubs' top prospects.
He is considered a pure shortstop with outstanding range and arm, who will undoubtedly be able to play the position defensively at the big league level. He did make a lot of errors in the Midwest League, but based on his skills, that should improve as he matures and learns what is expected of him at the position.
There are some doubts about whether Lee's bat can keep up with his glove. He has shown the ability to put the ball in play and use his plus speed to his advantage. Once he gets on, he's a threat, with 32 steals in 2010 and 25 in a half-season back in 2009. He'll never have big-time power, but he does have some bat speed that could make him an extra-base threat in the future. He'll play all season at age 20, likely in Class A Port Charlotte. His addition gives the Rays some depth at shortstop with Tim Beckham in Double-A and Derek Dietrich likely ticketed for Class A Bowling Green.
Guyer, who turns 25 on Jan. 28, is known as a "toolsy" outfielder who has started to turn his tremendous athletic ability into on-field performance over the past couple of seasons. He had a breakout season in 2010, though he ended up with just 369 at-bats as he dealt with a shoulder issue. When he was playing, he was outstanding, earning Southern League All-Star honors and being named by MLB.com as the Cubs system's Hitter of the Year for batting .344/.398/.588 with 30 steals for Double-A Tennessee. Baseball America ranked Guyer 10th in their rankings for top Cubs prospects.
A former football standout in high school, Guyer brings that game's mentality to baseball with an all-out aggressive style on both sides of the ball. He has good speed and his power continues to develop. He can play anywhere in the outfield and could very well start the year with Triple-A Durham.
Chirinos, 26, made his debut with the Cubs in 2001 as a 17-year-old signed out of Venezuela playing in the rookie-level Arizona League. Needless to say, the now 26-year-old backstop has moved slowly, spending parts of three seasons in the Midwest League, then parts of four up just one spot to Daytona. He finally made it up to Double-A in 2008 and actually started in Tennessee in '10, eventually earning a promotion to Triple-A for the first time.
He's known more as a catch-and-throw guy with good overall defensive skills. Over the past two years, he's shown improvement with the bat as well. He hit .294/.396/.519 in 2009 then improved that to .326/.416/.583 a year ago. At the very least, he'll provide a valuable asset in working with the multiple pitching prospects in the Rays' system, perhaps starting the season with Durham. At most, he could become a solid backup or combination with John Jaso in St. Petersburg.
Fuld, 29, hit .272 with four home runs, 27 RBIs and 21 stolen bases at Iowa. In 19 games with the Cubs, he hit .143 in 28 at-bats; he has played in 98 Major League games with the Cubs over three seasons. He is known as a strong defensive outfielder.
Garza came to the Rays in a trade with the Twins prior to the 2008 season. Jason Bartlett, who came to Tampa Bay in the same deal, was traded Dec. 17 to the Padres for prospects.
"I can't speak bad about the Tampa Rays," said Garza. "They're a great bunch of guys. They gave me the opportunity and stuck behind me through all the good and the bad. There's not enough that I can say about those guys. It's a shame it has to be like that, but it's the nature of the beast. That's the way this game works. I'm glad to be a part of it, and I cherish them until I end my career. Right now, I'm happy to be in Chicago and happy to be a Cub."
Garza's departure is one of many for Tampa Bay thus far this offseason. In addition to the two trades the Rays have made, they have watched a parade of free agents find homes with other teams, and it's likely there will be more to follow.
Joaquin Benoit, Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler, Brad Hawpe and Dioner Navarro have all signed with other teams. Other free agents from last year's team who have yet to sign contracts include Grant Balfour, Chad Qualls, Lance Cormier, Gabe Kapler and Rafael Soriano.
Perez, who batted .234 in 107 big league appearances, hit .223 at Triple-A Durham last year. Rosscup, 22, split the 2010 season between the Gulf Coast League Rays (Rookie) and Hudson Valley (Short-Season A). He went a combined 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA (44 1/3 innings pitched) in 12 appearances (eight starts).
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.