In what could very well be the most surprising news of the entire off-season, Cliff Lee has signed a 5 year, $120MM deal that includes a vesting option for a sixth year with the Philadelphia Phillies. The news of Cliff Lee going to the Phillies effects the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, as well as the Chicago Cubs. While the Cubs were never a legitimate suitor for Cliff Lee, their number one priority remains trading for Matt Garza. Now that the Yankees and Rangers have missed out on Cliff Lee, both of them may turn their attention to trying to trade for Matt Garza as well.
The Tampa Bay Rays now will begin to intensify trade discussions regarding their Starting Pitcher Matt Garza. The Cubs and Rays had discussion about Garza last week at the Winter Meetings, but the Rays wanted Cliff Lee to make his decision first. By waiting for Lee to make his decision, the Rays have actually improved the market for Garza. Because now both the Texas Rangers, and New York Yankees will have interest in trading for Garza, as well as the Chicago Cubs.
Bruce Miles reported last night that Matt Garza is still very much in play for the Chicago Cubs. Miles notes that the only prospects that the the Cubs are not willing to trade are Chris Archer, and Brett Jackson. While the Rays did like both Archer and Brett Jackson, they realized that they would probably not be getting both from the Cubs. But that doesn’t figure to hurt the Cubs, as they still have a very strong offer on the table for Garza. The names included in the Garza offer appear to be catching prospect Robinson Chirinos, Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, as well as two pitching prospects. One of the pitching prospects may be Jay Jackson, who is the Cubs 5th best pitching prospect according to Baseball Prospectus. Another possible candidate in the offer could be right hander Trey McNutt, who is the Cubs best pitching prospect according to Baseball Prospectus.
It is believed that the Texas Rangers made a strong attempt last night, once they realized Lee was leaving, to complete a trade for Matt Garza, but for whatever reason the trade fell through. That could be a good sign for the Cubs, as it is believed that the Cubs still have the best offer on the table for Garza at this point. Regardless, I expect the Rangers to exhaust their efforts by trying to trade for Zack Greinke. I don’t really see the Rays trading Garza to a team within their division, which is why I don’t envision the Yankees landing Garza. So, the Cubs remain in a prime position to land Garza, who is their top priority at the moment.
Looking past Garza, Bruce Levine suggested today that the Yankees may target Carlos Zambrano. However, Levine is not so sure that Zambrano would waive his no trade clause. As, over the past few months Zambrano has been adamant that will remain with the Chicago Cubs, and has no interest in waiving his “5-10” rights. Ideally, the Cubs want Carlos Zambrano at the top of their rotation along with Ryan Dempster and potentially Matt Garza.
The Cliff Lee signing probably will trigger a domino effect in where a lot of things will begin to materialize over the next couple of weeks. Which in hindsight may make the Cubs more aggressive as they look to improve their team for the 2011 season.