So the Cubs acquired Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and a player to be named later from the Texas Rangers for Matt Garza? So who are these guys and did the Cubs make a good deal?
I don't have a scouting report on the named later guy, but Mike Olt was Baseball America's #22 prospect in all of baseball coming into this season. They praised his power, his defense and his work ethic. They said he goes deep into counts, drawing lots of walks. So that's pretty good for two months of Garza, right?
Yes and no. If this trade had been made last season, the talk would have been that the Cubs got a top prospect for a year and a half of Matt Garza. But Garza is a year older and Olt's stock has dropped rather dramatically. In April, Olt hit .139 with only one home run for Round Rock and then he went on the DL with vision problems in early May. Nothing wrong was found with his eyes, and it's suspected that the vision problems were a result of a concussion he suffered in winter ball in the Dominican Republic. While the vision issues eventually cleared up and he has been hitting a lot better lately (he almost single-handedly beat the Iowa Cubs twice over the weekend), a lot of scouts have begun to notice a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. It was always an issue, but the lack of progress in controlling it has some worried.
Also, Olt is getting older. He turns 25 next month and has only played 16 games in the major leagues. Poorly, at that. He's older than Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. He was supposed to take a step up this season and establish himself in the majors. The Rangers are in dire need of a right-handed DH, so the opportunity was there. For whatever reason, he hasn't taken that step forward. This has people questioning whether he'll ever be the impact player he was previously projected to be.
Still, last season the Rangers would not have parted with Olt, which is a big reason the Cubs got Christian Villanueva in the Ryan Dempster deal. He still has tremendous power, as evidenced by the pair of three-run home runs he hit against Iowa this past weekend. His defense is strong--he started a triple play against Iowa as well. Maybe he ends up being a star. Maybe he never controls the strike zone and fails to establish himself at the major league level. He might also end up being a player like Mark Reynolds, with tremendous power and a lot of walks but a ton of strikeouts and a low batting average. All three outcomes are possible.
Many observers consider C.J. Edwards to be the centerpiece of this deal. Edwards has seemingly come out of nowhere, as he was a 48th round pick of the Rangers in 2011. He signed with the Rangers for $50,000. But he was very lightly scouted out of high school in South Carolina because he didn't play in any of the showcase events that scouts go to discover talent. Few people had ever seen him pitch and the Rangers took a flyer on him on the advice of their area scout, who had recruited him to pitch at a local junior college.
The Rangers apparently found a hidden diamond. Edwards throws 90-95 mph on his fastball with good movement and has even been known to hit 98. He has the makings of a solid curve and a changeup. Although he's already 21, he's still a skinny kid who could yet fill out and become even stronger on the mound. So far this season, he's absolutely dominated the Low-A Sally League to the tune of an 8-2 record with a 1.83 ERA. In 93.1 innings, he's struck out an incredible 122 batters and walked only 34. (Update: Oh yeah. Forgot to mention. In 161 innings as a professional, Edwards has yet to allow a home run.) While Baseball America only ranked him as the Rangers #14 prospect coming into this season, I've heard some people argue that he was going to be a top five prospect by the time the season was over. He may instantly become the Cubs top pitching prospect, or at least he's in the discussion with Pierce Johnson and Juan Paniagua.
The third player in the deal is Justin Grimm, who was the Rangers #5 prospect according to Baseball America coming into this season. Since that time, he's made 17 starts for the Rangers in the majors and he's been . . .well, he's been bad. He's 7-7 with a 6.89 ERA. He relies on fastball location and a strong changeup, although he does also have a curve and a slider. Up until this season, he's always shown good command in the minors, although his command this season has only been fair. That's probably because he's had a major problem with the long-ball down in Arlington, a park I've often referred to as "Coors Light." The walks may be a result of him being gun shy about challenging hitters after having given up so many home runs. (Fifteen in 89 innings.) I'm sure someone in the Cubs organization thinks they can turn his season around.
(Update: If you want to know what our brothers at Lone Star Ball think of these players, here is their scouting report on Mike Olt and here is one on Justin Grimm. They know these players better than I do.)
So was this a good deal for Garza? I think it's a fair deal for both sides. The Rangers are only getting about 12 starts out of Garza, and then he hits the free agent market with no guarantee he returns. For that, the Cubs got a former top prospect whose stock has dropped, but has shown signs of getting back to where he had been lately. They got a lottery pick in Edwards, who could turn out to be a strong #2/#3 starter in the majors but is a long way away from that with a lot of chance that he never gets there. And then they get Grimm, whose situation some have compared to Travis Wood's when he came over from the Reds--a guy who has struggled but maybe has a chance to straighten things out with a new team and become a #4 starter. If not, he could end up as a bullpen piece. I don't expect the PTBNL to be anyone significant.
Yet Another Update: The deal is now official and the Cubs get either one or two players to be named later. In truth, the trade is fair as it is, so we'll have to see who the two players are. The rumor is that the Cubs can pick either Neil Ramirez or two other players from a list already agreed upon.