With the 2013 campaign winding down, the immediate impacts of several high profile trades can be determined – especially in terms of their impact on playoff races. One such trade is the deal that saw the Chicago Cubs send right-hander Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers in exchange for a series of prospects, in hopes of further replenishing the farm system that had been ravaged over the past half-decade or so.
Entering play Tuesday, the Rangers find themselves on the outside looking in after holding the American League West lead for much of the season. At 85-71, Texas is one game behind the red-hot Cleveland Indians for the second Wild Card spot. The Tampa Bay Rays, who have bounced back after a dismal two-week stretch recently, remain atop the Wild Card standings at 87-69. Clearly, it’s still anyone’s guess who takes the two Wild Card spots next Sunday, but one thing is for sure. Rangers skipper Ron Washington needs Matt Garza to start pitching like an ace.
During the first half of the season with the Cubs, Garza pitched incredibly well, going 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 starts. He ran off a particularly impressive string of starts at the end of his time in Chicago, which only helped increase the right-hander’s stock at the Trade Deadline.
Since that time, however, he has went 4-5 with a 4.56 ERA in 12 starts with the Rangers. He’s hit a real rough patch this month, pitching to a tune of a 5.79 ERA in four starts that totaled 23 1/3 innings of work. In that stretch, he allowed 15 earned runs on 27 hits and failed to make it past the fifth inning in two of those starts.
The 29-year old Garza did put together a strong start against Kansas City recently, tossing eight innings of one-run ball in a critical game for Texas. He must continue this trend in his final start of the season if Texas wants to sneak into this year’s playoffs.
In return for Garza, the Cubs received quite the haul. Infielder Mike Olt, Class-A right-hander C.J. Edwards, right-hander Justin Grimm and Double-A pitcher Neil Ramirez all came to the Windy City – for a player who was three months from free agency. This was the most impressive deal Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have put together during their time in Chicago.
Olt was touted as being the league’s next big power bat before he suffered a concussion last season. This year, in time split between Texas’ Double-A and Triple-A clubs, in addition to time with Triple-A Iowa, Olt struggled. He hit just .201 in 107 games with a .303 on-base percentage. He showed flashes of the power that drew praise from league executives earlier in his career, hitting 15 home runs and driving in 42 runs, as well. But in my opinion, Olt isn’t the treasure of this deal. It’s the depth Chicago added in the deal in terms of pitching.
The pitcher with the most upside in this deal is easily C.J. Edwards. Despite not yet reaching higher than Class A-Advanced, the young right-hander combined to go 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA between the Texas and Chicago minor league systems in 2013. In 24 starts, he totaled 116 1/3 innings of work in which he struck out 155 batters. What makes all of this even more impressive is the fact that he has allowed just one home run in his professional career that spans 183 innings.
Justin Grimm, who many fans have seen at the big league level this month in Chicago, struggled with Triple-A Iowa after the trade, going 2-3 with a 4.68 ERA in eight starts. His 1.488 WHIP left something to be desired, to say the least. Following his promotion to Chicago, he has appeared in eight games for manager Dale Sveum and is 0-2 with a 2.57 ERA. A major positive note is his WHIP, which in a limited sample size, has dropped drastically to 0.857.
The last player to be added through this trade was pitcher Neil Ramirez who was announced as the player-to-be-named later at a later date. This season, between Texas’ and Chicago’s Double-A clubs, he went 9-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 22 starts. If his development continues to go well, he could be a middle-of-the-rotation arm for Chicago in years to come.
The verdict is still out for many on who won this trade. A lot of those on the fence will make up their mind in less than a week when the postseason field is set. If Texas makes it in thanks to a final solid start from Garza, they may say it was worth it. But if you ask me, even if the Rangers make it back to the postseason this year, they have risked future success in the wake of disappointing meltdowns over the past few seasons, and the Cubs swooped in to take advantage of a front office that is desperate for a World Series title.