Matt Garza Trade Reaction: Not a Definite Win for Chicago

The rumored on-again-off-again deal involving the rebuilding Cubs and contending Rangers has finally come to fruition, as the two teams have agreed to a five-player deal (possibly six, depending on a potential additional player to be named later) involving right-hander Matt Garza.

With the team trailing Oakland by three games in the West and recent news  that the Red Sox could possibly be in the market for a veteran starting pitcher, Texas paid a potential hefty price for the soon-to-be-free-agent, parting with third baseman Mike Olt, right-handers C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm and at least one player to be named later.

Olt, who was ranked as the 47th prospect prior to the year, has struggled mightily this season, hitting a paltry .213/.317/.422. And according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his total offensive production has been 10% below the PCL average.

Back in March I ranked him as the Rangers’ third best prospect, writing: “Olt’s long been tied to trade rumors and for good reason. H’s nearly big league ready; his bat has the potential to be elite if he can stick at third, and he offers what every front office is looking for nowadays: power. I do have some reservations about his contact skills, though he has improved as he’s moved up the ladder, but he definitely could develop into a Three-True-Outcome hitter.”

Well, Olt’s still showing above-average pop, though not on the same level as his previous two seasons, and a strong walk rate, but his strikeout ratio has ballooned to a career high 33.2%. It’s all the more troubling because he’s 24 and is in a very hitter friendly environment.

Edwards, a 48th round pick out of high school in 2011, has been absolutely dominant during his first season-plus in pro ball. And through 18 starts with Hickory this year, the 6-foot-2 right-hander has averaged 11.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 while posting 2.51 Skill Independent ERA. The problem, of course, is the production has come against an age-appropriate level of competition. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chicago push him to High-A soon.

Grimm was the surprise winner for a rotation spot coming out of Spring Training. And while his overall ERA, 6.37, is bloated, the underlying numbers aren’t all that impressive. The 24-year-old has averaged 6.88 K/9 and 3.13 BB/9, both below league average totals. His fastball isn’t overpowering, but he’ll benefit from the change in leagues and could be a useful #5/swing-man-type guy.

The Cubs are also scheduled to receive one, maybe two players to be named later as well.

As for the Rangers, they acquire the premier starting pitching on the market. And despite missing half of 2012 due to injury (and some of 2013 as well), Garza appears healthy and has plenty of experience playing within a tough division from his time with the Rays.

His K-rate, 7.86 K/9, is down a bit from his previous two seasons, but still comes in above his career mark. His control has also continued to improve as well (2.54 BB/9). And he’s also been the beneficiary of some bad luck (.266 BABIP).

Garza will slide into the upper part of the Rangers’ rotation, giving the ballclub three above-average starting pitchers, and he could add about one to 1.5-wins to the team. 

As for the long term picture, Chicago has the potential to come out on top, but it’s far from a slam dunk. Olt’s flaws have seemingly been exposed in Triple-A; Edwards hasn’t performed against older competition yet and could very likely succumb to injury as many young arms tend to do; and Grimm’s ceiling isn’t very high.

 

Photo of Matt Garza Courtesy of CBSSports.com/USATSI



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.