'Garza trade' has frustrated Cubs, Rays
We are now one month into the third season since "The Matt Garza Trade."
The only player from that trade currently on an active major-league roster is ... drum roll, please ... Sam Fuld, with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Equally scorned and praised -- perhaps more scorned by Cubs fans -- when it was made, "The Matt Garza Trade" has yielded little to this point for either the Cubs or the Rays, at least at the major-league level.
Back on Jan. 8, 2011, then-Cubs general manger Jim Hendry packaged prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer and Fuld for Garza, speedy outfielder Fernando Perez and minor-league pitcher Zach Rosscup.
Here is where we are today:
• Garza has been on the disabled list since the beginning of the season as he recovers from a left-lat-muscle strain suffered in the early days of spring training. Because of a recent bout of "dead arm," he's likely not to rejoin the Cubs until late May.
In his first two seasons with the Cubs, Garza has appeared in 49 games, putting up a record of 15-17 with a 3.52 ERA and 293 strikeouts in 301 innings pitched. Garza, now 29, has spent time on the DL in each of his three seasons with the Cubs, and his 2012 season ended in July because of a "stress reaction" in his right elbow.
• Perez was supposed to be an outfield speedster, but he was more known for being an Ivy Leaguer with an interest in poetry. He since washed out of organized baseball into independent ball.
• Rosscup, a reliever, is at the Cubs' Class AA Tennessee affiliate, where he entered Saturday 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 10 games.
• Lee, the No. 90 prospect in the game according to Baseball America, may be out for the season after tearing ligaments in his left knee last Saturday in a collision at second base while playing for Class AAA Durham. He was considered by many to be the key for the Rays in the deal. He was off to a 19-for-45 start for Durham.
• Archer, 24, is 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP at Durham.
• Guyer also is at Durham. He has logged major-league time but is not considered a top prospect. The Rays traded Chirinos to Texas, and he currently plays for Class AAA Round Rock.
Fuld entered Saturday with a line of .139/.205/.139 for the Rays.
At the time the trade was made, it was perceived as a last gasp for Hendry to bring the Cubs back to respectability and perhaps save his job (neither happened) after the Cubs slid following their playoff years of 2007 and 2008.
Hendry spun things differently at the time, calling it a "good, old-fashioned baseball trade."
"One thing I wanted to say is honestly, these are the kind of trades, you can see it from both sides," he said. "This wasn't a trade -- and I heard a few things and I read a few -- that we're trying to win right now. Matt is 27; he's going to be a Cub for a while. We look at this as a good trade for the present and the future."
The new Cubs regime of president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer seemed to see things that way once they took over in the fall of 2011. There were frequent questions of whether Garza would get a contract extension; Epstein seemed favorable but never tipped his hand.
When it became clear the Cubs were going to be bad -- and as it turned out, really bad -- for a year if not longer, Garza began to serve a different purpose: trade bait.
Just as the Cubs did with veteran pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm last July, they were hoping to trade Garza for prospects -- definitely ironic if you look at the Cubs acquiring Garza for prospects in the first place -- at the July 31 deadline.
But Garza's elbow, which put him on the DL in 2011, ended to those plans, as the Cubs had to put him on the DL effective to July 28 after he left what would be his final start of the season with the "stress reaction."
Today, Garza seems too big a risk to sign to a long-term deal, and it remains questionable what the Cubs can get for him in a trade, when he has not pitched in nine months.
For the Rays, they won't know for months how Lee will recover from his knee injury and whether it has affected his speed or range.
Archer appears to be in the long-term plans for the Rays. He got into six games last year, making 4 starts and going 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA. He's a fastball (up to 97 mph, according to some reports) and slider pitcher who mixes in a change.
So the jury appears still to be out. Some argue that the team receiving the established player in these kinds of trades makes out better because of the uncertain nature of prospects. Others believe it's always good to load up on young players.
In the end, maybe the whole thing is a wash or maybe Rosscup ends up being the prospect to emerge or maybe Garza comes back and the Cubs get something for him.
One thing is for sure: It can take years to evaluate the impact of a trade.