The Chicago Cubs have watched the Milwaukee Brewers jump into the limelight when they landed Greinke from the Royals and Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays. They also watched the Cardinals improve their offense (if not their defense) with the addition of Lance Berkman. Now the Cubs have made (apparently) a strike of their own and have unloaded a pile of prospects to land Matt Garza from the Bay Rays. The move makes the NL West look like a real scrum with an improved Brewers and Cubs battling last year's winning Reds and the perennial favorite Cardinals.
The best way to look at trades like this is to look at what each team gets. And we'll start with the Cubs. They get an at times dominating starting pitcher who is only 27 years old who has made consistent progress over three solid, dependable and worry free years for the Bay Rays. He hasn't missed any starts in those three years and you have always gotten the feeling that if he ever put it together, he could have front of the rotation stuff. He has no split difficulties with right-handed or left-handed batters, he consistently gets batters to make more outs than hits (.278 BABIP in 2010) and has nothing in his home/road splits to worry anybody.
The two things about Garza are that he is homer prone (not good if the wind is blowing out at Wrigley) and when things aren't going well, he gets rattled and the game can get out of hand quickly. He has some A. J. Burnett in him at times, though he should over the life of his career be better than Burnett. His homer rate has been consistently in the 1.1 to 1.2 range and you would like to see that at 1.0 or lower. But overall, Garza is a great land for the Cubs and instantly makes their rotation that much better.
The Cubs also got a marginal prospect in Fernando Perez, an outfielder with some major league experience. The Cubs were also said to get a minor league pitcher, but he wasn't named.
The Bay Rays are trying to divest some payroll and this move fits right into that interest. They are stacked with pitching prospects and from the Cubs, they get a bunch more. Included with the deal were two former Cubs Minor League Players of the Year. One is a prospect rated sixth in the Cubs' system by Baseball Propectus, Chris Archer. Archer was 15-3 in Single A ball in 2010. He projects as a third or fourth starter but could go higher. The only knock on him is that his control needs to be better and he needs a third pitch.
The other Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in the deal is outfielder, Brandon Guyer. Guyer wasn't even in the BP rankings going into 2010, but he exploded this season. Guyer was drafted way back in 2007 but as mentioned, he had a terrific season in Double A and finished 2010 with a .986 OPS that included 39 doubles, 6 triples and 13 homers. He also stole 30 bases while only getting thrown out three times. He is 24 years old, which is getting a bit old for a prospect, but perhaps he is one of those guys where the light bulb went off. It's hard to argue with the results. In another year or two, Guyer might allow the Bay Rays to think about using him as their next center fielder.
Another prospect in the deal is the shortstop that the Bay Rays wanted in Korean, Hak-Ju Lee. Lee was the third rated prospect in the Cubs organization just after Castro and another player (this Fan is getting senile). Lee can be spectacular in the field but can just as easily boot an easy grounder. Lee steals a lot of bases, gets on base well but has little or no power. With Castro making a splash with the Cubs, Lee would have been blocked at the major league level anyway.
The Bay Rays also got one of this Fan's favorite players (thanks to Josh Borenstein), Sam Fuld. Fuld has done nothing but produce for the Cubs in the limited time they ever played him. Fuld was born and grew up in Durham, New Hampshire, near where this Fan lived for many years. He's 29 years old and never really got a chance with the Cubs. He's been a sold on-base guy in the Cubs system and when he got some playing time in 2009 with the Cubs. He has no power to speak of, but is an excellent center fielder. Unfortunately for Fuld, his way will again be blocked with the Bay Rays and they will not likely give him a chance either.
It seems that the Cubs lost some strength in their farm system, but one (Lee) was redundant. They pick up a workhorse pitcher who could anchor their rotation for quite a while. The Bay Rays get a nice haul of prospects, especially in Lee, Archer and Guyer. They also get outfield insurance from Fuld in case they decide to trade Upton. The Cubs get ammunition in an increasingly competitive division and the Bay Rays retool with more of what they do best--pile up prospects.