Garza trade big boost to Cubs' rebuilding plan
Matt Garza spends what would be his last day in the Cubs' dugout Sunday at Colorado. On Monday, the Cubs traded Garza to the Texas Rangers for four or possibly five prospects.
That's one way to look at Monday's Cubs trade, in which they sent starting pitcher Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers for four, and possibly five, young players.
In January 2011, then-Cubs general manager Jim Hendry acquired Garza from Tampa Bay for five players, including top prospects Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee.
Current GM Jed Hoyer got a large haul for Garza: third baseman Mike Olt, right-handed pitcher Justin Grimm, right-handed pitching prospect C.J. Edwards and one or two players to be named, depending on how the Cubs choose.
"As far as our return for Matt, we feel really good about the depth we acquired," Hoyer said on a conference call. "Mike Olt is a player we tried to acquire for a while.
"We actually tried to acquire him last year at the (July 31) trade deadline. He's had a little bit of a down year, but sometimes that the best time to acquire a player. We certainly hope he can bounce back to his form of last year.
"Edwards is a pitcher we've scouted extensively. We had a good sense Texas would be heavily involved with us on Matt Garza, so we scouted him a lot.
"Justin Grimm is a guy who really pitched well last year in Double-A and ended up in the big leagues. He's a guy we see with a bright future. He's struggled at time in the big leagues, but certainly he's young and he's got a really good fastball-curveball combination."
The player or players to be named will be a pitcher or pitchers, perhaps Neil Ramirez, whose name surfaced Friday, when news of a possible Garza-to-Texas deal began emerging.
The most intriguing player in the deal is Edwards. The 21-year-old is 8-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 1.03 WHIP at Class A Hickory.
Olt, 24, will supplant Josh Vitters at third base for the Cubs' Class AAA Iowa team; Hoyer said Vitters "can play a lot of outfield for us."
At Class AAA Round Rock, Olt has a line of .213/.317/.422 this year with 11 homers and 32 RBI. The Rangers' 2012 minor-league player of the year, Olt played in 16 big-league games last year.
Grimm, 24, will head to Iowa. With the Rangers this year, he was 7-7 with a 6.37 ERA and a WHIP of 1.65. He will join recently acquired Jake Arrieta (trade from Baltimore) in Iowa's rotation and perhaps have a shot at the Cubs' rotation sometime this year.
Garza was scheduled to start Monday night's game at Arizona, but the Cubs recalled lefty Chris Rusin to fill that spot. Hoyer admitted Garza did not start in this past weekend's series at Colorado to buy the Cubs some time to make a trade. Rusin may or may not keep the job.
"There are no promises," Hoyer said. "We have some depth we can go to besides Chris, but we'd love for him to pitch well and stay up here."
As for Garza, he spent time on the disabled list in each of his three seasons with the Cubs, and the possible health risk may have made the Cubs lukewarm at best in wanting to sign him to a contract extension.
Garza can become a free agent at the end of this season.
He came off the disabled list May 21 and vaulted himself into being the game's top trade target by going 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA. Garza was a hyperkinetic presence on the mound, on the bench and in the clubhouse.
He could get on teammates' nerves at times, but there is little doubting his competitive nature.
The trade also in keeping with Cubs management's practice of dealing veterans to restock the minor-league system particularly with power arms.
"Matt's a great teammate," Hoyer said. "He's one of the best competitors I've seen and certainly a guy we'll be sad not to have around anymore.
"He was a really good teammate whether he was injured or healthy, kept his teammates in the game. He was close to a ring in 2008 (with Tampa Bay). I know he wants to get one now."
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