The reported deal is now official with the Rays also sending minor league pitcher Zachary Rosscup along with Matt Garza and Fernando Perez. Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and Team President Matt Silverman held a conference call with reporters soon after the announcement. Here are some quick notes:
On Chris Archer, Friedman said they think he could be a good starting pitcher in the American League East and mentioned his makeup several times.
In regards to Robinson Chirinos, he said that even though he is a converted catcher he is a very good defensive catcher and spoke of his discipline and gap power as a hitter.
When speaking about outfielder Brandon Guyer, Friedman used the word plus several times to describe his tools including defense, and base running.
Finally, Friedman spoke about shortstop Hak-Ju Lee focusing on his defensive reputation and using “plus” to describe his ablities as well.
While Jeremy Hellickson is the heavy favorite to replace Matt Garza in the Rays rotation, Friedman would not hand him the job right now, noting “those decisions don’t get made in January.” When I asked about Jake McGee possibly competing for a rotation spot, Friedman said it would be a conversation they would have a lot more as they head toward spring training, adding that some in the organization feel the lefty could be an “impact guy” out of the bullpen.
On the topic of fans saying the deal was financially driven, team president Matt Silverman said money plays a role in every decision the team makes, but that the team intends to deploy the money back into the organization. On re-allocating Garza’s money into the 2011 team, Friedman said “that’s certainly the goal” mentioning relief pitching and addition bats as areas of interest.
The Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago Cubs have reportedly agreed on an eight-player trade that would send Matt Garza, Fernando Perez, and a minor league player to Chicago in exchange for a package of five Cubs’ prospects. This includes top pitching prospect (according to Baseball America)Chris Archer as well as shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos, and outfielders Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld. Along with Archer, both Lee and Guyer ranked in the top 10 of the Cubs’ system according to Baseball America.
At this time, the deal is spending physicals and likely won’t be official until tomorrow. While we wait here is some analysis…
Matt Garza is a young, talented right-hander who fits the Rays’ mold in a lot of ways. However, he is no longer cheap; at least according to the Rays’ standards. As an arbitration eligible player for the second time, Garza will likely make north of $5-million in 2011. That may not seem like a lot, would make him the highest paid player on a team where he is not even the best player at his position.
The Rays are also not creating a hole in their rotation by moving their third starter. Top prospect Jeremy Hellickson was deemed ready by Joe Maddon at the winter meetings and even if he doesn’t crack the rotation on opening day (Andy Sonnanstine as a placeholder), he figures to get the lion’s share of Garza’s innings.
Though Garza was a 15-game winner in 2010, he does have flaws. For all natural “stuff” he posses, his strikeout rate has fallen below average in two of the past three years including 2010. In addition to lacking the punchouts to match his abilities, Garza has seen his home run rate climb in each of the past three years. This is not meant to tear down the architect of two great moments in Rays’ history (2008 ALCS Game 7 and his no-hitter), but simply stating we may have overrated Garza a bit. With a talent like Hellickson stepping in, there is a chance he can replicate Garza’s projected production in 2011 on his own.
In addition replacing Garza with Hellickson, the deal frees up even more cash for the Rays to spend on a designated hitter and/or relief pitcher. For example, the Rays are likely a better team with Hellickson in the rotation and say Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez at the DH than they would be with Garza and a league average hitter.
One concern of some Rays’ fans was getting back major league ready talent. The Rays may have not acquired a bonafide star in return, but three or four of the players coming to Tampa Bay are likely to immediately start at the upper levels of the system with the potential to see big league action in 2011.
Here is a rundown on the new talent:
Chris Archer, 22, is considered by some as the biggest piece coming back to the Rays. Archer is hard-throwing right-hander who can get his fastball up to 96 mph. In addition to an above-average fastball, his slider is also considered a plus pitch. In 2010, he split time between single-A and double-A, going a combined 15-3 in 28 games. He also struck out an impressive 149 batters in 142.1 innings. Like most young pitchers, he has struggled with his control and is still working on a third pitch (change-up). He has the potential to be a number two or three starter, but some suggest he could also be a late-inning/closer option. There is an outside chance he could be a September call-up, but is probably a year away from really impacting the roster.
Hak-Ju Lee, 20, is a slick-fielding shortstop imported from Korea who is the key to trade by some talent evaluators. He flashes above-average range and has a rocket arm. Offensively, he’s a contact fhitter with speed to burn. His thin frame has not produced much power and likely won’t in the future. Still, many see him as a lead off type hitter with plus defense at a premium position. He’ll be one to keep an eye on, but not until around 2013.
Brandon Guyer, 24, had a monster year at the Double-A level (.986 OPS). The offensive explosion was unexpected, so there are questions about a repeat peformance. His power has been inconsistent, but overall, is a solid hitter who rates as an above-average defender in the outfield. As a right-handed batter, he is somewhat of a mirror version of Matt Joyce. On the other hand, his plate discipline is lacking. He will start the year at the highest level of the minor leagues and could see some big league action in case of injury.
Robinson Chirinos, 26, is a bit old to be considered a prospect, but we’ll give him a break since he was converted from shortstop to catcher. He has an offensive breakout at the double-A level and has the on-base skills that the Rays covet. Though he is relatively new to the position, scouting types rave about his defensive efforts behind the plate. He’ll almost certainly start the season at Durham, but will likely be the Rays’ defacto third catcher in 2011 with the potential to be more.
Sam Fuld, 29, is the oldest player in the trade, but comes with major league experience. A Stanford man, he has racked up just over 150 major league plate appearances. Listed at under six feet and 175 pounds, don’t expect much power from the left-handed hitter. That said, he has a knack for getting on-base, stealing bases, and playing solid defense. He might replace Fernando Perez as the smartest player in the organization and will likely take his role on the field as well. Fuld will fight for a roster spot in spring training (potentially left field), and could spent the bulk of this time with the big league club.
This is one of the more complex trades made in the Friedman Era. On the surface, it looks like the team is giving up some ground in 2011, but Hellickson’s transition should ease that pain; especially if it comes with a big-time DH. The prospects coming to the Rays may not be considered studs, but add to an already impressive system. Lee is a few years away, but might have the most upside in the trade while Archer, Guyer, Chirinos, and Fuld could end up contributing in 2011.