Cubs Cash in on Gorzelanny

When the Cubs acquired Tom Gorzelanny at the 2009 trade deadline he was little more than an afterthought. Their main target was lefty reliever John Grabow, who was in the midst of a decent season. But apparently the Pirates had seen enough of Gorzelanny’s inconsistency and made him part of the deal. Eighteen months and a quality season later, the Cubs have flipped Gorzelanny for a handsome profit.

In exchange for both Grabow and Gorzelanny, the Cubs sent Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison to the Pirates. None of these three players appeared to be significant contributors. Baseball America ranked Hart the Cubs’ No. 6 prospect in 2009, but by then had ticketed him for the bullpen. Ascanio, whom the Braves sent to the Cubs in the Omar Infante deal, was another reliever who had a smattering of major league experience. Harrison was a young utility player with little patience or power. But that’s the kind of return you might expect for a middle reliever and a pitcher who had been flat terrible for two and a half years.

Still, Gorzelanny had promise. Last year he mounted something of a comeback, posting a 4.09 ERA and 3.92 FIP in 136.1 innings, which included 23 starts. It amounted to a 2.3 WAR season, which, combined with the 0.5 WAR he produced in 2009 with the Cubs, gave him 2.8 WAR total. Hart and Ascanio provided the Pirates with 0.1 WAR each in 2009, but neither pitched in the majors in 2010. Hart is the most troubling case, as he missed most of the season recovering from shoulder labrum surgery. The deal might have made sense at the time — a middle reliever and a poor performer for three mid-grade, at best, prospects — but the Cubs clearly got the better portion of the results.

The Cubs also benefitted when they traded Gorzelanny to the Nationals for Graham Hicks, A.J. Morris, and Michael Burgess. With the Matt Garza trade the Cubs had depleted their farm depth, but built rotation depth. With this trade they used one to strengthen the other. The prospects they got back from Washington are, unsurprisingly, better than the ones they sent to Pittsburgh.

Burgess, a 2007 supplemental first rounder, came along slowly after the draft. He spent what amounts to two full seasons at A+ before moving up to AA at the end of last season. Kevin Goldstein ranked him the Nats’ No. 7 prospect, noting his strengths as power and on-base skills. Hicks appears to be more of a project, since he has little pro experience and will turn 21 in February. Morris ranks 17th on Goldstein’s list, with a note that his sinker/slider repertoire could be fit for a relief role.

Tom Gorzelanny has been nothing but a boon to Chicago. They acquired him for a pittance, and that’s not even considering that they also got Grabow, who was useful in the second half of 2009. They then got a good full season out of him, to the tune of 2.3 wins, and then flipped him for a package of prospects that, while not overwhelming, still contains one chip better than anything they sent to Pittsburgh. A lot of luck went into this, but it seemingly all broke Chicago’s way. The Nationals might have done well, but considering the sequence of events, Chicago has to be considered a winner in this.




Print This Post



Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

31 Responses to “Cubs Cash in on Gorzelanny”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Chops says:

    Does this deal for the Cubs make up for them overpaying in the Matt Garza deal?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ballens says:

      No, because they could have done this deal without the Garza deal, still had plenty of rotation depth, and had these three prospects AND all the guys they sent to the Rays. But I digress…

      *Frustrated Cubs Fan*

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ofMontreal says:

      Since the Cubs didn’t overpay for 3 seasons of Garza, the answer must be yes.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jack Nugent says:

        No, because the worst prospect headed to Tampa, not including Sam Fuld who isn’t really a prospect, is probably better than the best guy the Cubs got from Washington. All that despite the fact Gorzelanny has an outside shot at being just as valuable as Matt Garza for the next three years.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • hk says:

        What Jack Nugent said…Gorzelanny + the prospects that Tampa received > Garza + the prospects from Washington. The Cubs would have been better off making neither trade, keeping Gorzelanny in the rotation and waiting for Archer and Lee to contribute for six cost controlled years.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Daniel says:

    Well they didn’t need to do the Garza deal to make this possible but they would have needed to pick somebody up from the free agent market. That’s 200 innings you’re talking about. No one wants to see them being covered by Casey Coleman and Thomas Diamond.

    Anyway, this deal can be evaluated on its own merits and they are just fine. Sure, they haven’t replaced what they lost as regards the farm but they got some interesting pieces and plus Garza is quite a bit better than Gorzo. Does Lee have a better chance than Burgess of making the bigs? I’m not sure he has.

    Sometimes I really think Cubs fans are too prone to doom and gloom. This hasn’t been a bad offseason.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jack Nugent says:

      Burgess may have a better shot at making the big leagues, but I think most talent evaluators think Lee has a better shot at reaching his ceiling and becoming an everyday player. But really that’s beside the point…

      This offseason was going OK for the Cubs until they traded four of their best prospects for a #2 starter that won’t put them in the playoffs this year, before turning around and trading a nearly equally valuable starter for 3 fringy prospects.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • mike says:

        did you just say Gorzelanny is “nearly equally valuable starter” as Matt Garza?

        You do know that Gorzelanny has worse career #s than Carlos Silva right? The same Carlos Silva that is fighting for the Cubs #5 starter spot. Less WAR avg/season, less IP avg/season, worse OBPA, worse WHIP, identical ERA+

        Burgess adds something the Cubs do not have in their farm… plus power. If he continues to lower his K rate and up his BB rate (which he has done 3 straight seasons) then this a huge steal for the Cubs.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Daniel says:

        No way Gorzo is close to Garza. He’s made more than 30 starts exactly once and that was in 2007. There’s no guarantee he’s capable of doing that again.

        And I don’t buy this about “four of their best prospects” either. I don’t see any reason to be more excited about Guyer than I would be Burgess. Burgess probably never gets his Ks down and he flames out, fine. But he’s a left-hander with power potential, which is exactly what the Cubs need. Maybe I’m trying too hard to see it but I enjoy recognising something that resembles a plan in the moves the Cubs are making.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • DL80 says:

        Mike, I agree. People are going WAY overboard on the whole “Garza is overrated” thing. His K/9 rates are all over the map, but everyone here is just assuming that the rate in 2009 was fluky. Even if it was, Garza floor is essentially a non-injured Anibal Sanchez. That’s probably Gorzelanny’s ceiling.

        Garza’s ceiling is much higher.

        I find the Garza-hate to be equally matched by the James Shields love. I don’t own Garza, but used to own Shields, and he is actually overrated as being underrated.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jack Nugent says:

        Fluky circumstances prevented Gorzelanny from making 30 starts last year. After the team decided to put Carlos Zambrano back in the rotation after, foolishly removing him from it to begin with, Gorzelanny was the odd man out. Once he returned to the rotation, he took a liner off his pitching elbow that cost him September.

        Some people seem unwilling or unable to wrap their heads around the fact that Gorzelanny has been a different pitcher since escaping Pittsburgh:

        65 starts as a Pirate: 5.89 K/9 4.13 BB/9 1.01 HR/9 4.73 ERA 4.85 FIP

        30 starts as a Cub: 8.24 K/9 4.01 BB/9 0.84 HR/9 4.45 ERA 3.85 FIP

        30 starts is obviously only ~1 season’s worth of data, but the difference there is pretty much night and day. Way I see it, there’s no reason to doubt his ability to make 30 starts for a Nationals team that has been in the market for starting pitching all offseason.

        If he takes the ball every fifth day, I have no hesitation saying he is only marginally less valuable an asset than Matt Garza. Garza is the better, more talented pitcher. But a lot of people are about to find out how underrated Gorzelanny is.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Daniel says:

        I’m not buying your 30 start argument Jack. His overall 2010 numbers were less impressive than the ones you’ve posted there. They would have to be considered more pertinent at this stage, no? If you look at his splits from last year, he had one cracking month (May) and five mediocre ones (albeit he didn’t pitch much in either June or September). He has shown no regular ability to maintain his control and if you give a guy like that 30 starts, he’s going to hurt you somewhere down the line. To my mind, he’s a well above average middle relief guy that I would trust to go toe-to-toe with just about any left-handed batter in the game. But I don’t want to see him for 200 innings.

        All that said, he might well get 200 innings in for the Nats this year. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. odbsol says:

    It ain’t going to win them a championship and may not be enough to save Hendry’s job but it’s a good overall manuever. If they can free up enough payroll once Soriano’s & Headcase’s contracts expire and then make some better decisions on how to allocate that payroll, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Jack Nugent says:

    I get it’s just at title, but I’m not crazy about this one. The Cubs hardly “cashed in” on Gorzelanny. Obviously, the fact he hadn’t done it yet prevented them from marketing him as such, but if Gorz had been allowed to make his 30 starts either last year or this year, all of a sudden the Cubs would have been sitting a damn valuable asset– a good, cheap lefty.

    When you take a close look at what his overall value is, in terms of his production against what he figures to make through arbitration, you could argue the Cubs had no business settling for less than ~$20MM in value in any trade involving Gorz, and ~$20MM they did not get.

    Seriously, instead of trading a starter for scrap parts, why not just put whoever needs to go in the bullpen to make room for this guy? I think the Cubs sold to low, and to early on Gorzelanny.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Souldrummer says:

    Do you trust the Cubs ability to judge meh prospects? Do you trust Rizzo’s ability to evaluate guys he’s been looking at every day for two years? Do you trust the Cubs to know what to do with the back end of their rotation? Or do you trust Rizzo to know whether it’s worthwhile to give a flyer to Gorzelanny for blocked free swinging Burgess?

    It’s basically spare parts for spare parts and an IQ test of prospects between the Cubs and Nats. When my Redskins get in an IQ test with the Eagles I quiver in fear. When the Nats have to decide on who to spend big money on, I feel they could make Sabeanesque big-time errors. But when it’s prospect evaluation of internal guys vs. scouting reports of external big leaguers I trust that Rizzo will beat the Cubs a majority of the time.

    With Rizzo, it’s not just about the numbers. He’s a scout and he’s supposed to have a slightly better hit rate than Fangraphs because of his ability to make judgments in individual players (small sample size) vs. stats larger scale stuff. And even Fangraphs has admitted that Gorzelanny’s a spin on the back end lefty roulette wheel.

    Worth it for me. Don’t think the Cubs are getting much but a couple of meh prospects for the privilege of not going to arbitration with Gorzelanny the next couple of years.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Paul says:

      I know Rizzo is a good talent evaluator, but Tim Wilken is very highly respected and I doubt that any of their deals involving prospects must be blessed by him. And Hendry is no slouch himself. This is one of the reasons I am not so over the moon as some people in this thread on Archer and Lee. They are like Beane, they know their own guys better than anybody.

      One aspect of the Garza and Gorzo deals being overlooked (due in part to the Fuld man-crush), is that the Cubs acquired two projectable young lefties in these deals basically as throw-ins. That tells me that these deals both have Wilken’s fingerprints all over them.

      But then I’m biased because I bought their hype on Starlin and it really paid off.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • John C. says:

        If you’re projecting Hicks, that’s one powerful projector you’ve got there. He’s been terrible in the lower minors. And A.J. Morris is a righty, not a lefty. yes, Burgess is a lefty but it seems you were talking about pitchers. The Nationals have been waiting on Burgess for years now. He still K’s a lot (going from 162Ks/472ABs to 135/480 to 115/460 is pretty marginal improvement, and he hasn’t advance that far in the minors. Maybe 21 games in AA is an indicator, and maybe it’s SSS.

        It’s funny the fans of both teams who are bemoaning this deal and those who are praising it. Both teams got some value, we’ll see how it plays out. As a Nationals fan, I’m not unhappy with the deal.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • John C. says:

        And while Burgess may have been some guy’s #7 prospect in the Nationals system (this year? really?), I don’t think I’ve seen him rated any higher than #17 or #18 elsewhere (Sickles at minorleagueball.com, for example).

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Paul says:

        John C.: I was referring to the lefty they got from the Rays in the Garza deal, not Morris. Hicks remains projectable, which means exactly what it says, he’s a still-young lefthander with good size and room to fill out physically. The SS the Cubs traded, Lee, is also projectable, but for some reason folks have been claiming he’s a lock to be a MLB regular. Burgess is 22. Maybe he’s garbage, but there is really no consensus on him. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Sickels was ever on him since his amateur days. Others liked him then, obviously, since he was a supp. 1st rounder who was projected to go much higher before a poor senior year. We’ll find out a lot this year. I also like the deal for the Nats, for what it’s worth.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. DonCoburleone says:

    It doesn’t matter what the Cubs do this year, it ain’t happening for them (unless Soriano, A-Ram, Pena and Zambrano all have career years and Colvin busts out with 30+ bombs of his own)… Cubs fans need to just pray that a desperate to save his job Jim Hendry doesn’t COMPLETELY destroy this team’s future.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dan says:

      This is just simply untrue. Who in the NL Central is that much better than the Cubs? Every team in the division has its fair share of question marks. Zambrano/Dempster/Garza/Wells is a solid top four and the Cubs have enough options at 5th starter that they should be able to find someone productive to fill the role. Soto was one of the best catchers in baseball last year and Pena and Ramirez should be good bets to bounce back. Castro was already a 2 win player (in only 125 games) at the age of 20. Soriano/Byrd/Colvin/Fukudome is a decent enough outfield. Their bullpen was awful last year and should improve. I’m not saying that they are going to win the division, but to say that “it ain’t happening for them” is just a pointless statement. The division can be won by anyone besides the Pirates and Astros, and we all know how big of a crapshoot the playoffs are.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Jacksone says:

    Well, I guess you guys that believe Lee will ever amount to anything may as well check the track record of Asian position players in the majors. What’s that? There is really only one, Ichiro, that you can point to as succeeding in the majors for any stretch of time? OK, nevermind…you guys are correct, Lee would be worth waiting for using that logic. Face it, the Asian market does NOT produce MLB-equivalent everyday players. Useful pitchers, perhaps, but the game in the two respective countries is dissimilar enough that while fringe MLB players thrive in Asian markets, the reverse of that almost NEVER happens.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • DL80 says:

      I have no idea who Lee is, nor do I care, but your statement is just flat wrong.

      Shin-Soo Choo: Averaged 4.5 WAR over the last 3 years.
      Hideki Matsui: Averaged a bit under 2 WAR per season for 8 years.
      Akinori Iwamura: Averaged 2.65 WAR for his first 2 years.
      Tadahito Iguchi: Averaged 2.1 WAR for his first 3 years.
      Kenji Johjima: Averaged 2.05 WAR for his career.

      That’s 5 players who are average or better, and most of them weren’t here until they were in the late 20s or 30s.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • sourbob says:

      All Asian players clumsily grouped together, eh? So you’re gonna be *that guy.*

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Brian says:

    I’m not sure “cashing in” is right. None of the three guys were in BA’s top 15; Burgess is just starting to show the hitting potential he was drafted for, and might end up an average RF or serious bench threat, but A.J. Morris’ ceiling is basically AAA reliever and Brandon Hicks, for all his youth and “projectability,” has been giving up hits like crazy at single A. WHIP above 1.6 in 2010.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Neil says:

    Burgess might make this a good deal for the Cubs if he pans out, but the reports I’ve read on his swing have not been encouraging. Either way, the Nats are penciling Werth and Harper into left and right field until 2017 (I’ll believe Werth in center when I see it.) Morris and Hicks are so low on the pitching totem pole the Nats didn’t give up anything they’ll miss.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. sourbob says:

    I think people enjoy underdog stories and career turnarounds so much that they can’t help but overrate Gorzelanny. This is a guy who’s going to be 29 next season and had 2010′s fifth worst BB/9 among all pitchers with 100+ IP. I’m not quite ready to pencil him in as another Ted Lilly or even as a guy who can do what he did in 2010 over again, over more innings.

    (Worst? Carlos Zambrano… WOW is it not fun to be a Cubs fan…)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • John C. says:

      He’s not likely to be another Ted Lilly. But they didn’t get much for him, so to me the trade is pretty much a push. The Cubs got a three-for-one for him, but Morris pitched his way out of the rotation into the bullpen in single A, Hicks has been terrible wherever he goes, and Burgess has power but struggles making contact and has only played 21 games at AA ball. Burgess has been lagging behind in his development, is blocked at the ML level by Werth, has fallen down the list in terms of being in the Nats’ plans and will likely shortly be passed by Harper. Gorzelanny was redundant in a starting rotation made crowded by the Garza deal.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. peric says:

    Burgess is slow a foot and a below average fielder. His power is inconsistent, he strikes out a lot. He has been working on his plate patience.

    He’s a left-fielder/first baseman at best in the majors.

    On a depth chart that now includes 5-tool Corey Brown, 5-tool Bryce Harper, JP Ramirez and possible 4-5 tool speedster Eury Perez … and then there’s another ex-HS first rounder form Joy’s JimBo named Destin Hood, Burgess was clearly odd man out.

    With HRod and Elvin Ramirez able to hurl balls at 98-100mph added where would AJ Morris end up?

    The only real loss might be Graham Hicks. He has some interesting potential and its too soon to make any sort of judgement about him. But with highly touted lefties Robbie Ray and Sammy Solis recently added …

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. peric says:

    Something souldrummer should be telling you …

    For these Nats and Mike Rizzo having a guy with a power arm who, even when fangraphs considers him ‘inconsistent’, ( … a real Nats fans laughs both cynically and derisively), that can give you 23 starts with 11 quality starts!!! While working out of the
    bullpen!!? Ask Tyler Clippard, Ross Detwiler, Colin Balester, Garrett Mock, JD Martin, and even Jordan Zimmermann to do that? They haven’t even come close and the attempts have ended almost in abject failure! And the reason why the Nats bullpen was used the most last year.

    Souldrummer, did you see the chart on fangraphs that showed the Nats second in time spent on the DL to the A’s!! And first when it came to pitchers?

    And Livan Hernandez, truly a marvel from the days of magnificent seven (might have been Yul Brynner? ) age 35 going on 45-50 is your opening day starter. A the next guy who didn’t spend a second in the bullpen, soft tossing lefty John Lannan only had 12 quality starts in 25 total?

    And you ask “is this a better deal for the Nats or Cubs”?

    NATS hands down. Hands down.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *