Cubs Strengthen Organizational Depth with Garza Deal

The Matt Garza sweepstakes finally ended on Monday, with the Texas Rangers emerging victorious in their long pursuit of the Chicago Cubs veteran hurler. In return for the 29-year-old right-hander, Chicago obtained three young players — third baseman Mike Olt, as well as pitchers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards — and one or two players to be named later (depending on who the first PTBNL is).

The return for Garza — a free agent at the end of the season — is solid, although there is no sure-fire A-Grade prospect in the haul. The top player is Olt, whose value is down in 2013 thanks to massive strikeout rates in Triple-A and vision problems that could be related to a concussion he suffered in 2012. Prior to the 2013 season, though, his value was at an all-time high. I ranked him as the second best prospect in the Rangers system behind fellow infielder Jurickson Profar, and 47th overall on the Top 100 prospects list — the third highest ranked third base prospect behind Minnesota’s Miguel Sano and Washington’s Anthony Rendon (who is currently playing second base).

Olt just missed the recent mid-2013 Top 50 prospects list based on his recent struggles and the questions that have haunted him since last year when I suggested he was being overrated after slugging 28 home runs in Double-A. Even before the injury he appeared to be a future low-average hitter whose main strengths would be his power and above average glove at the hot corner. In other words, he’s not a complete player, or a five-tool talent.

Olt wasn’t a great fit in the Rangers’ system because he was blocked by perennial gold glove winner Adrian Beltre and the organization considered moving him to right field or first base where his defensive skills would mostly go to waste. The Cubs system will certainly welcome him with open arms, despite the presence of multiple young infielders. Former first rounder Josh Vitters is more or less a bust although he’s still young at 23, and current third baseman Luis Valbuena, 27, has had an inconsistent season and career. Another former Rangers prospect, Christian Villanueva, is currently playing at Double-A.

The biggest threats to Olt’s future may be current shortstop Javier Baez, who may eventual outgrow his current position, and 2013 first rounder Kris Bryant, a fellow third baseman. Olt, though, has a decent head start on both players. The Puerto Rico native still has a lot of work to do on refining his aggressive (but powerful) approach at the plate. Bryant, who possesses even better raw power than Olt or Baez, is ] about a year away from being Major League ready and could shift to the outfield to eventually replace veteran Alfonso Soriano, whose massive eight-year contract comes to an end after the 2014 season.

Grimm, 24, has spent the majority of the season in the Rangers’ starting rotation during his rookie campaign. I ranked the right-hander ninth on the Rangers’ pre-season Top 15 prospects list and noted his potential to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter. The ceiling remains despite posting a 6.37 ERA (4.25 xFIP) and allowing 116 hits in 89 innings of work. Despite his struggles, the prospect is expected to learn from his mistakes. As one prospect evaluator stated to me in the off-season, Grimm “continues to always look at ways to improve and get better.”

The third known prospect in the deal is Edwards, who narrowly missed the Top 15 list and would have landed 19th had the ranking been expanded to include 20 prospects. A great find by the Rangers scouting department, the right-hander was selected in the 48th round of the 2011 amateur draft. His 2013 numbers have been eye popping with 122 strikeouts and a large number of ground-ball outs in 93.1 innings. The concern with Edwards, though, is that he has a slender frame despite standing 6-foot-2 and his lack of projection on his changeup hints at a future bullpen role. He could develop into a high-leverage reliever thanks to his mid-to-low-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball. Despite the questions, I would probably rate him among the Cubs’ Top 10 prospects.

The players to be named later are expected to be chosen from a group of pitchers. Had I been building the deal with Texas, I would have coveted two infielders in Luis Sardinas or Rougned Odor. With that said, the Cubs front office did a nice job of addressing organizational need while shedding half a season of a solid veteran pitcher during a rebuilding year. While this trade may not return any stars, it’s a nice collection of valuable pieces for a player the Cubs weren’t going to keep.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


25 Responses to “Cubs Strengthen Organizational Depth with Garza Deal”

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  1. cable fixer says:

    Nice write-up, Marc. I remember your Olt write-up and you deserve praise for it.

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      Love the moniker.

      I think Marc is selling Olt short. Not every player is going to be a 5-tool guy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have real big league value. I’d comp Olt to Mark Trumbo/Todd Frazier; with likely less power than Trumbo and defense than Frazier. That’s a pretty decent value proposition…for the next 5+ seasons of team control.

      The problem is his injury issue this year has folks suspect. Since he came back on 5/31, he’s hitting .253/.345/.513 with 11 HR in 170ABs — other than AVG, thats a decent line. Paired with plus defense, I’d say the Cubs may have gotten their 3B of the future for rental player.

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      • Paul says:

        I’d say by now there are far more players in Marc’s camp than yours on Olt. I was really high on him based on everybody’s rankings until I saw him at the Future’s Game last year and was shocked at his lack of bat speed. Olt is not Trumbo or Frazier. He is a good defensive 3B who is truly a platoon only bat. Actually, if they could manage to get something for Vitters, a platoon with Valbuena for a few years would be decent value. But you are simply wrong that he is a full time regular.

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  2. Brian says:

    Marc, you mentioned a couple infielders as potential PTBNL(s). Are there any pitchers the Cubs might have the chance to select?

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    • Alexander Nevermind says:

      Re-read that last paragraph. Odor and Sardinas are the Rangers’ top talents. In no way are they potential PTBNL’s.

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    • Mike says:

      I know they can choose either Neil Ramirez or 2 lower level prospects from the list, not sure who else it includes

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  3. Apple Sucks says:

    Word is Neil Rameriz is on the PTBNL list. Where might he fit in and what dimension may he bring to the trade?

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    • Steve says:

      Yes. If Cubs select Ramirez, that completes the deal. Otherwise, they can select 2 pitchers as PTBNL.

      Word was that Odor was in play until Rangers didn’t like a report on Garza’s elbow, so that’s how Grimm ended up in instead.

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  4. Not so grim for Grimm says:

    I think the Cubs got a bit of a steal in Grimm. Yes, he’s had an awful rookie campaign, but he’s shown flashes of what he can be, and he’s still young at 24. Considering the other players in the deal, plus Grimm, you have to think the Rangers sold low on Grimm. He has solid peripherals outside of his H/9. It may just be that a change of scenery was needed, and facing a P every 9th batter will certainly help his numbers. I think he is definitely one to watch in the 2d half to see how he progresses in the NL.

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    • Paul says:

      When all is said and done, the perception may be that they sold low on him as you say. But he’s a 5th starter in the AL at best, and a middle reliever in Arlington. In other words, you’re probably right that he’ll be a decent value for the Cubs, while it being simultaneously correct that he’s barely rosterable by the Rangers.

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  5. Jake says:

    I read on MLBTR that the Cubs originally had Odor in the deal, but the Rangers switched him out for Grimm due to something in Garza’s medicals. They referenced a tweet from Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant.

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  6. Justin says:

    They traded away Soriano this morning too. Good day for the Cubs.

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    • medler says:

      Justin…

      The Soriano trade is a rumor brought up in Newsday. Nothing is confirmed. I know the Yankees have been scouting the Cubs on their West Coast road trip and the assumption was Soriano was being considered.

      With that being said, I can’t imagine the Cubs dealing Sori without the Yankees paying for the remaining year on the salary. At this point, the Cubs should try to get a little value other than just sending Soriano and some cash to New York for a bag of balls and ARod’s blood sample.

      I read this morning that the Cubs want Chase Whitley for Soriano.

      We will see. I’m not seeing this deal getting done, but who knows…right?!?

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      • phil says:

        Agreed if he goes to Yankees the Cubs won’t eat most of it. What the Cubs need is another team(s) to be in on him to drive the price up.

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  7. Steven says:

    Olt kind of sucks at baseball. Grimm is unproven, 24, and also currently sucking. Edwards is too young to even tell if he’s any good. Well done, Cubbies!

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  8. Juicy-Bones Phil says:

    They didn’t get anything awe inspiring, but they weren’t going to keep Garza anyways. Good deal for both sides.

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  9. My Dang O Lang says:

    Wow the cubs have done a great job of rebuilding their farm system.

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  10. eddiegaedel says:

    Seems like a fair deal… If Olt reaches his potential he could bat with Rizzo in the middle of the order. Not sure he will reach it but a good gamble for the Cubs.

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  11. Nolan says:

    I don’t love Olt, but I think it’s a good return for a few months of Garza. Probably won’t get the value that you gave up to get him initially, but that isn’t Hoyer’s fault.

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  12. Johnny Ringo says:

    I really don’t see how a guy who is 23 (Vitters) can be considered a bust in any way, shape, or form. He still has a ways to go and it seems the potential is still there offensively.

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    • Brian says:

      Vitters is still young, and throughout his career has struggled every time he’s moved up a level. His problem has been his approach (lack of walks), but in AAA this year he’s walking at a 10% clip, and his K’s are down to 15%. it’s a small sample size (he was hurt earlier), but he’s really putting up some nice #’s all of a sudden: .297/.381/.500

      maybe he deserves another shot.

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  13. Brian says:

    Do you really think Edwards would crack the top 10? The Cubs have a much improved system.

    Baez
    Soler
    Almora
    Bryant
    Alcantara
    Pierce Johnson
    Vizcaino
    Vogelbach
    Cabrera
    Candelario
    Zastryzny
    Blackburn

    That’d be great if he fits into the top 10.

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  14. BMarkham says:

    I would say the Cubs won this trade. Garza has a 3.78 FIP compared to a league average 3.91. So the Rangers got 3 months of a pitcher just a bit better than average. If any of the players the Cubs received ends up working out than the Cubs get more than what the Rangers got.

    This reeks of short term desperation from a Rangers team 3 back to the A’s. One deal like this doesn’t hurt the franchise too much but this type of valuation of short term over long term kills a franchise if it’s done for too many years.

    I have to say, as a Cardinals fan I see the Cubs being a strong team in the next couple of years. Their run differential this year is actually a lot better than their record suggests it should be. And with a lot of prospects to improve the club they could contend with us and the Pirates here soon. Really I welcome the competition. Close division races for years to come should be interesting.

    I think the Red’s competitive window is closing though. Choo is in the last year of his contract and with Votto and Phillips locked up to big long-term contracts they probably won’t extend Choo. Votto and Phillips, while playing great now, are also both past their prime and are likely to be a drag on payroll in a few years. They have great starting pitching but all of them are in their arbitration years. We’ll have to see how many they can resign long term, again with Votto and Phillips hogging a good chunk of payroll it may not be many. This is likely to be the Red’s best chance to contend in the central for a while. They could be Phillies status here soon.

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