Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011
By Patrick Mooney
Matt Garza had seen his name mentioned in trade rumors, but the news still caught him off-guard. For Jim Hendry, the pursuit of this front-line starter had been all-consuming.
By Hendrys count, he had spoken to Andrew Friedman every day except Christmas and New Years across the past month. It was more than just a wild idea bounced around the lobby of a Disney World resort during the winter meetings.
The Rays executive was motivated to sell and looking toward his teams next window of opportunity competing directly against the industrys superpowers in Boston and New York.
Years from now, maybe pitcher Chris Archer and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee will help form the core of the next great team in Tampa. Those two prospects were key pieces in an eight-player trade made official Saturday.
But the Cubs see Garza, 27, paying immediate dividends. They view him as a proven playoff performer, someone who will help lift them into contention next season and beyond.
Garza will be under team control for the next three seasons. And by 2014, when the 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound right-hander will first be eligible for free agency, no one knows where this franchise will be. For the Cubs general manager, this deal strikes a balance.
We look at this as a great trade for the present and the future, Hendry said on a teleconference. Were not giving away the farm trying to win this year. That couldn't be farther from the truth with a guy like Matt Garza.
With all the physicals complete, the Cubs will also receive Fernando Perez, a 27-year-old outfielder who was educated at Columbia University, has major-league experience, and can run and play defense. They also get left-hander Zachary Rosscup, 22, who went 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 12 appearances last season in the low minors.
The price included Archer, Lee, converted catcher Robinson Chirinos, and outfielders and Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld. Thats not unreasonable for a No. 2 starter who will earn around 6 million this season through arbitration especially since Hendry felt he was competing against four or five other teams for Garza.
The Cubs are confident that their system and their financial resources are deep enough to absorb the loss of Archer, who was the organizations 2010 minor league pitcher of the year after going 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA during a season split between Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.
He aspires to be someone like Garza in a few years, and we hope that happens, Hendry said. The names change every year. The Rays had every right to expect a guy like him.
The Cubs once liked a free agent named Ted Lilly because he was competitive, durable and proven in the American League East. In moving from a brutal division to the weaker National League Central, there is a reasonable expectation that Garza can annually win 15 games, make 30 starts and account for 200 innings.
Manager Mike Quade and pitching coach Mark Riggins are two baseball lifers who spent decades in the minor leagues waiting for this opportunity. They already had options as they looked at the 2011 rotation: Andrew Cashner, Tom Gorzelanny, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Casey Coleman and Jeff Samardzija.
But that group is labeled with question marks, the uncertainty of whether they have the stuff and confidence to remain healthy and productive for an entire season. Garza, a former first-round pick with an ALCS MVP award and a no-hitter on his resume, gives them a better chance to win, now and later.
Garza whos 34-31 with a 3.86 ERA since 2008 should be a building block for what could be an even bigger offseason at this time next year.
The Cubs could free up to nearly 40 million in payroll through buyouts, declined options and expiring contracts for Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, John Grabow, Silva and Samardzija.
Carlos Pena, Garzas teammate in small-market Tampa, and Kerry Wood are working on one-year deals worth roughly a combined 11.5 million. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano could be free agents after the 2012 season. The money will be there if Garza wants it.
Garza is an emotional pitcher who says that he has matured, that he wanted this trade completed before the season started so that he could get his three children settled. Soon we will find out if this only looked good on paper.
(The Rays) gave me the opportunity and stuck behind me through the good and the bad. Its a shame it had to be like that, but its the nature of the beast, Garza said. (Now) lets try to get this turned around in the right direction. We have a lot of pieces of the puzzle.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.