The reports are flying fast and furious this morning that the Tampa Bay Rays have agreed in principal to trade right-handed pitcher Matt Garza and two minor leaguers to the Chicago Cubs for five prospects, pending physicals. According too Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, the Cubs will send pitcher Chris Archer, outfielder Brandon Guyer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, and outfielder Sam Fuld to Tampa Bay in exchange for Garza, outfielder Fernando Perez, and a yet unknown minor league pitcher.
Garza threw the first no hitter in Rays history this season, adding that prestigious feat to his already impressive resume that included an ALCS MVP award. Garza, originally acquired by the Rays in 2008 with Jason Bartlett from the Minnesota Twins for Delmon Young, was a key cog in the Rays World Series run in 2008 as well as their AL East championship in 2010. Garza posted a 15-10 record in 2010, sporting a 3.91 ERA, with a 6.6 K/9 and a 2.8 BB/9 in 204 innings of work.
Garza became expendable for the Rays due to the rise of RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who is almost a lock in the rotation now with Garza's departure. Garza was also heading to arbitration and due a raise on his $3.3M 2010 salary, potentially as much as doubling his worth in the hearings. In addition to refueling the farm system, the money freed up by the move may be enough to bring back a power slugger in Free Agency, such as Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, or Jim Thome.
The package that the Rays will be getting is similar in size and scope to the package that the Royals received from the Brewers for Zack Greinke last month, with the Rays' bunch possibly having less immediate impact but a higher potential ceiling.
The key piece in the trade is right-hander Chris Archer, a 22-year old pitcher most recently playing in Double-A ball, posting a 1.80 ERA in 13 games with Double-A Tennessee last season. Archer was ranked by Baseball America as the Cubs top prospect and many believe he was a closer of the future in Chicago, but that he may still be a year away from the Major Leagues.
Lee, a native Korean born player, is a young toolsy shortstop with lots of development left but is highly regarded to have great potential. The 20 year old has posted a .299/.370/.375 line with 57 stolen bases in two pro seasons. He was ranked 6th in Baseball America's ranking of Cubs prospects and projects as a good to above average hitter with great defensive ability.
Guyer and Chirinos are the two players that are probably closest to cracking the Majors as both played and performed well in their minor league opportunities last season. Guyer, a fourth outfielder type posted a slash line of .344/.398/.588 at AA Tennessee, while Chirinos, a converted shortstop now catcher, hit to the tune of .326/.416/.583 with 18 home runs between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa. Chirinos may prove to be the future replacement to Kelly Shoppach and a great right-handed compliment to John Jaso.
Fuld is a 29-year old outfielder who has spent 6 years in the minor leagues and projects as organizational depth with potential for a 4th outfielder type role.