On Monday, Luke passed along the word that the Cubs are willing to listen to offers for Matt Garza. He also took it a step further and mapped out some potential prospect targets from two rumored teams (Texas and Kansas City) that would interest Theo Epstein and Company to stock the Cubs farm system. It was good to hear the names of some realistic prospect targets the Cubs could go after if they do deal Garza. For me though, and I might be unrealistic here, I need the projected overall talent level to match what the Cubs gave up to the Rays to get Garza, and then some. By no means am I implying that Luke is undervaluing Garza. I say “and then some” because the Cubs are in a position where they do not need to trade Garza.
It is still too early to see who won the trade, but if you are curious like I am to see how the former Cubs prospects are doing with the Rays nine months after the trade, let us take a look.
Brandon Guyer (OF) already got a cup of coffee with the Rays last season. In 15 games his highlights include 2 HR and 7 runs, but his OBP was .214. A small sample size to go off of, but all we have to go off of so far. As Luke noted last January, Baseball America ranked Guyer as #10 on the prospect list for the Cubs. Luke predicted Guyer could get to Wrigley at some point in 2011. With the trade of course, it ended up being Tropicana Field instead. Currently the Rays have some outfield depth that is blocking Guyer for the 2012 season. Considered as a solid fielder that is just waiting for his bat to catch up, a conservative projection could see him replacing Sam Fuld as a fourth outfielder. BJ Upton has consistently found his name in trade rumors for the small market Rays. He is eligible to become a free agent after the 2012 season. Regardless of whether Upton walks after the season or is traded before then, if Guyer can reach his potential, he could be a starting option for the Rays in 2013 and beyond.
Robinson Chirinos got 20 games under his belt highlighted with 7 RBI and 12 hits. Although he struck out 13 times, which could just be a reflection of adjusting to Major League level pitching, his 5 walks give hope that he will have a decent eye for the strike zone. Again, a small sample size to go off of, but Bill Chastain of MLB.com mentions Chirinos as one of the trio of candidates that Tampa Bay is considering as part of their back stop duo of the near future.
Chris Archer is the potential top of the rotation starter that the Rays were seeking in their plan to exchange current production (Garza) for the future. Although Archer has yet to make his debut in the Majors (partially due to the fact that the Rays already boast a deep starting rotation), he is currently on Tampa’s 40 man roster. Baseball America has yet to release their updated rankings for the Rays, but it will be interesting to see where he stands in Tampa’s farm system compared to his #1 ranking when he was still with the Cubs. The Rays front office did a good job patch working a bullpen for the 2011 season after their entire relief corps walked as free agents after 2010, and Archer could be an option for them in the pen with the idea of easing him into a Major League starter in mind.
The name that appears to have made the least progress in the deal is Hak Ju Lee. The Korean prospect was slowed by injuries during his time with the Cubs, and was a highly touted prospect in the system as an above average glove at short stop that was just waiting for his bat to catch up. If he is not added to the 40 man roster in the coming days, it may be a sign that he still has a ways to go before being considered to be on the door step of the Majors.
If Garza sticks around with the Cubs for a few years, he figures to become the ace or number two of the staff that Epstein and Jed Hoyer builds a contender around. In that scenario the above price in terms of prospects may be worth it even if Chirinos and Archer become the quality players they project to be, and keeping track of the former Cubs prospects will be an afterthought. But if the new front office feels they are approached with an offer they can’t refuse, Epstein and Hoyer best make sure the haul equals or exceeds the impact the names mentioned above make in the near future to avoid unflattering comparisons in the years to come.