Matt Garza had the perfect quick trigger to entertain fans on Twitter, whether it was posting "W" flags, ripping the TSA and United Airlines or taunting Oakland A’s infielder Eric Sogard and his wife.
But in a 24/7 business, it takes years to do a full accounting of the kind of blockbuster trades the Cubs pulled off with the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers. Maybe the real story can be told when @Gdeuceswild is the headliner for “Social Media Night” at a tricked-out Wrigley Field in 2023.
So with the Rays and Rangers locked in tight playoff races — and the Cubs starting to see some of those pieces emerge — it seems like a good time to ask: “Where Are They Now?”
— The next episode of “The Garza Show” will be Friday at Angel Stadium. He’s gone 3-2 with a 4.04 ERA in eight starts for the Rangers and should hit the open market as the No. 1 free-agent pitcher. Getting traded midseason was like a get-out-of-jail-free card in that he can’t be tagged with a qualifying offer and draft-pick compensation.
Depending on good health and how he performs in October, it wouldn’t be surprising if Garza signed for something in between the four-year, $52 million deal the Cubs gave Edwin Jackson last winter and the five-year, $80 million contract Anibal Sanchez pulled from the Detroit Tigers (after using the Cubs as leverage).
— Former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry thought he spoke with Rays counterpart Andrew Friedman every day for about a month — except Christmas and New Year’s — from the 2010 winter meetings until the eight-player trade was finally announced on Jan. 8, 2011.
Garza was only 27 years old and would be under club control for three more seasons, a reasonable time frame for a big-market franchise to think it could compete. He had been durable — three straight seasons of at least 30 starts — and tested in the American League East and the 2008 World Series.
“There wasn’t one person that works for the Cubs that wasn’t all-in on Matt Garza,” Hendry said in January 2011.
— Educated at the Peddie School in New Jersey and Columbia University, profiled in The New York Times and interested in creative writing, Fernando Perez became the trade’s high-profile throw-in. The outfielder lasted 76 games with Triple-A Iowa and played independent ball this season.
Zac Rosscup made his big-league debut on Tuesday at Wrigley Field after a minor-league season in which he notched 83 strikeouts in 51 innings. The 25-year-old lefty could become a nice bullpen piece, which sounded far-fetched that morning back home in Oregon.
“I actually missed the call — I was sleeping,” Rosscup said. “I check the voicemail, and it was (Rays farm director) Mitch Lukevics. He was just like: ‘Hey, Rosscup, this is Mitch. Call me back. It’s pretty important.’ So I was like: ‘All right, well, I probably just lost my job.’ That was the initial thought.
“I still didn’t know what to think, because I’ve never been traded or even thought of anything like that. I went out to the living room, where my family was (and told them). My family just kind of looked at me (all confused).
“It kind of made me reevaluate my position in baseball. I wouldn’t say I didn’t take it seriously with the Rays or when I was younger. I just felt so far away. When I got traded, it made me realize that people had eyes on me. There’s scouts looking, and I got with the Cubs organization and decided to crank it up and see what I can do.”
— The one who got away would be Chris Archer. The 24-year-old right-hander threw a two-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium last month and has gone 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA in 18 starts for the Rays this season. Acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the Mark DeRosa trade on New Year’s Eve 2008, Archer has shown uncommon maturity and perspective, talking to at-risk kids and tweeting from an account inspired by Jackie Robinson.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to pay forward what was given to me,” Archer told Yahoo! Sports. “My parents, two white parents, selflessly adopted a biracial child in the South. That’s just to start with. Every day my dad told me, ‘You're my world.’ I was not even his blood. And now baseball gives me the platform to impact thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people.”
— The Cubs felt like they already had a franchise shortstop in Starlin Castro and didn’t think they’d get burned trading Hak-Ju Lee, who played 15 games for Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate in April before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Catcher Robinson Chirinos (now with the Rangers) and outfielder Brandon Guyer have had cups of coffee with the Rays.
All-out hustle and highlight-reel defense — plus his fight against diabetes and Stanford University pedigree (where he was Carlos Quentin’s roommate) — would have made Sam Fuld a fan favorite on the North Side. But the Cubs viewed him as an extra outfielder.
— Cubs president Theo Epstein played poker, bluffed and dealt Garza to the Rangers on July 22, believing Class-A pitcher C.J. Edwards could be an ace. Edwards turned 22 on Tuesday and the next night threw five no-hit innings in a playoff win for Daytona.
Edwards was off the grid as a 48th-round pick in the 2011 draft. A National League scout believes competing against men in the South Carolina “Bush League” gave Edwards a far more advanced feel for pitching. Check out the minor-league numbers this season: 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 116.1 innings.
— The Cubs stocked up on more pitching with September call-up Justin Grimm and PTBNL Neil Ramirez and bought low on third baseman Mike Olt, who had been untouchable in the Garza talks a year earlier but struggled to stay above the Mendoza Line at the Triple-A level in 2013.
While the Chicago media and Cubs fans stayed on Garza Watch, Grimm remembered it this way: “I didn’t hear my name in anything and all of a sudden ...
“I found out through Twitter, honestly,” Grimm said. “I was sitting around the (Texas) clubhouse. Actually, all my teammates had to go out and get ready for a game, so they were all saying bye to me before: ‘Hey, just in case, it’s been a pleasure.’
“It’s part of the game. It’s the business side of it. Just go with it. But it’s good to meet new people and start off on a clean slate and get rolling.”