Why The Matt Garza Trade Is A Good Deal For The Cubs

First of all, we needed an overflow thread for all the comments, so I figured I'd post one and also explain a little bit about why I'm OK with this trade after having stated that I didn't want to give up Chris Archer in any deal for Matt Garza.

It is true that Chris Archer dominated in the minor leagues last year -- at both levels where he pitched. He was named Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year and had a shot at being in the rotation this season.

A shot, but no guarantee. Had this trade not been made, Archer would have been in competition with Carlos Silva, Andrew Cashner, Jeff Samardzija, Casey Coleman and Tom Gorzelanny for the last spot in the rotation. All of those have major league experience. Yes, I know -- all of them are flawed. And Archer may turn out to be better than any of them.

But now the Cubs have an actual starter with major league experience, and someone who's never been injured, and has playoff and World Series experience. Thus, maybe someone like Gorzelanny or Coleman can be traded. The Cubs gave up a possible years-long future star for someone who's under team control for three years at a fairly reasonable cost. It's not as if they traded Archer for a 30-year-old starting pitcher who can be a free agent at the end of this year.

Archer may spend the year in Triple-A -- he's not likely to crack the Rays' rotation.

Let's look at this in comparison to other Cubs young players and prospects dealt away in the past. Many people were in love with Rich Hill and Felix Pie -- and wouldn't have traded those guys in 2007 or 2008 for anything. Turns out, that would have been the best thing to do, as neither has become anything close to a major league star. Jim Hendry held on to those guys too long.

About the other people involved in the deal, Hak-Ju Lee has "star potential" written all over him. But he may be two or three years away from the major leagues and we simply do not know where he'll end up. Many Cubs prospects who have starred at the level that Lee has, have flamed out.

The deal for Juan Pierre in 2005 has been mentioned. That was a bad trade: the perceived value of Ricky Nolasco, Renyel Pinto and Sergio Mitre was much higher than "Juan Pierre" in December 2005. And that should tell you something about this deal, too. Nolasco has become a good, but not great, major league starter. Pinto was viewed as a top prospect -- he's been a mediocre middle reliever. Mitre has been bad. The point is, we just do not know how prospects are going to pan out.

As for Brandon Guyer and Robinson Chirinos -- they're older and project as major league backups, if that. Respected analysts such as Jim Callis, Kevin Goldsetin and John Sickels have said the Cubs made out pretty well in this deal, giving up good but not great prospects to get a solid major league starter. There are two other minor leaguers coming back to the Cubs; one of them is Fernando Perez, who could make the Cubs as a backup outfielder. He takes the spot of Sam Fuld, who may get a better chance to take a roster spot in Tampa than he had in Chicago.

Am I thrilled with this deal? No, it's not a world-beater. But neither is it something that you should bring out the torches and pitchforks for Jim Hendry, and I certainly don't hate it, as many do. Many people here have bitched and complained when Hendry held on to prospects (Hill and Pie, for example) for too long and ruined any trade value they had. Now he's rolled the dice on a deal with guys who were highly-rated... but has left the Cubs system with guys like Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt and Cashner. The system has finally gotten deep and produced. That's one reason you produce minor leaguers -- to acquire good major leaguers in trade.

Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster make a very solid top three starters for the 2011 Cubs. Get good years out of #4 and #5 and improved bullpen performance, and the team has a shot at real improvement in 2011.
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