Why the Rays are among the best and the Cubs are among the worst: The Matt Garza trade in perspective

What the hell just happened?  Are you going to look me straight in the eye and tell me that Matt Garza just got traded to the Cubs for a package of prospects that treats Garza like a perennial All-Star?

That is precisely what appears to be happening.  It’s being reported that Garza has been dealt to the North Side for a package of prospects headed by the Cubs supposed number one prospect Chris Archer.  Also included in the deal are outfielder Brandon Guyer, former infielding catcher Robinson Chirinos, infielder Hak-Ju Lee and outfielder Sam Fuld.

Now, the deal isn’t completed yet so this might change but Tampa is said to be giving back outfielder Fernando Perez along with Garza.  Perez was once thought to be a decent prospect but has essentially fallen off the map in recent years.  After posting a .903 OPS in 2007 at AA-Montgomery, Perez slid all the way to a .754 OPS in 2009 at AAA-Durham and then to a .579 OPS last year at AAA.  Something tells me he’ll never be a quality major-leaguer.

There are a few people out there who think Garza is underrated, but I am of the opposite stance.  Although he is a solid pitcher, those who give him ace status fail to look anything tangible.

As FanGraphs points out, Matt Garza is essentially Aaron Harang, who even in his prime was not exactly ace material.

I make the comparison to A.J. Burnett on a few levels.  He’s talented (although maybe doesn’t have the raw stuff A.J. possesses) but tends to lose focus on the mound far too often which leads to an elevation in mistakes.  At times he can be dazzling, as displayed by his no-hitter last season, but other times he can be shelled without regard for outs or wins.  In fact, these graphs show he’s probably much worse than Burnett.

ERA

K/9

BB/9

The Cubs didn’t give up a Zack Greinke or Roy Halladay-type package of prospects, but they did give up some useful pieces.

Chris Archer was acquired by the Cubs from Cleveland for Mark DeRosa and had a lights out year last season in the minors combining in A+ and AA to go 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA.  His walk total was slightly (although not horrifically) high, but he also struck out a boat-load and posted a solid 2.29 K/BB ratio.  He’s the type of pitcher who, with some refining of his command, could be better than Garza.

With the Rays rotation set to be one of the youngest and best in baseball without Garza next season, Archer has plenty of time to develop.  David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, and Jeremy Hellickson are expected to be the 5 starters heading into 2011 for Tampa.  The trading of Garza allows the spot for Hellickson who is showing signs of being a much better option, even in 2011.  I would wager that Hellickson will have a better year than Garza this year.

Another useful comparison is the other major pitcher trade to have occurred involving an AL East team this offseason.  For Garza, the Rays grabbed a package that in sum equals far more than the Jays got for Shaun Marcum when they traded him to the Brewers in December for Brett Lawrie.  A quick look at the graphs for Marcum and Garza illustrate that Marcum seems at least equitable to Garza, if not superior to him.

ERA

BB/9

K/9

K/BB

HR/9

Either the Rays made a fantastic deal or the Cubs made a terrible deal, but no matter how you angle it, it fits in with expectations for both of these teams.

This deal also gives the Cubs six major-league starters on their depth chart in Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Silva.  This should open up the trade talks for one of them to be shipped off, probably in another dumb deal.

One last question: is it worse to be a Leafs fan or a Cubs fan?  I’m a Leafs fan so I’m biased.

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