Fantasy Fallout: Matt Garza Traded To The Cubs

by Kyle Johansen

Cubs GM Jim Hendry may be delusional, thinking his team is “just a couple moves” away from being a real contender, but at least it gives us something to talk about as the Cubs have acquired Matt Garza from the Rays in an eight-player swap.  Headed to Tampa Bay are Cubs top prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee and minor league player of the year Brandon Guyer, among others. 

The most important fantasy development from this trade is that the Rays top prospect (and top pitching prospect in baseball) Jeremy Hellickson is now assured of a spot in the Rays starting rotation.  At Triple-A last year Hellickson had an ERA of 2.72 with 9.6 K/9 and for his minor league career he owns a 4.63 K/BB.  Hellickson’s transition to the majors last year was smooth, with a 3.47 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 in 36 innings.  Due to his advanced control and high strikeout potential, Hellickson is going to be a highly sought after target in upcoming drafts.

The trade is also beneficial to Matt Garza, who should see a boost to his 2011 numbers moving from the AL East to the NL Central.  In 2010 he put up a respectable 3.91 ERA with a 6.6 K/9 to go along with a 1.25 WHIP.  The only real gripe here is the strikeouts, but considering his 8.38 K/9 in 2009 and the 10.0 K/9 he put up in the minors, 2010 may represent Garza’s career low.  When you combine the strikeout skill he has shown in the past with the league change, Garza may see a significant increase in Ks next year.  With his ERA and WHIP also expected to improve with the move to the NL, I think Garza has the potential to be a Top 25 starter next year.  

Some have mentioned concerns over how Garza’s fly ball tendencies will translate to quaint Wrigley Field, as Garza’s gave up the highest fly ball rate of his career at 44% last year.  However, Ted Lilly has been more prone to fly balls, with rates higher than 50% the past two years, and this has had no ill effect on Lilly’s success.  The fact is the wind blows in just as much as it blows out at Wrigley.

As for the bounty the Rays received, Baseball America ranked Chris Archer the Cubs #1 prospect, with Hak-Ju Lee #4 and Brandon Guyer at #10.  Archer appears to be the most interesting for fantasy, as he piled up 149 Ks in 144 IP between High-A and Double-A in 2010 with a 2.34 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.   Baseball America mentions that Archer had the organization’s best fastball, touching 96-97, as well as the organization’s best slider.

Archer is likely a couple years away from the big leagues, considering the crowded Rays rotation and no experience past Double-A.  There was speculation by Jim Callis though, which suggested that Archer could potentially be a future closer.   If this is true he has sleeper potential down the road to steal the Rays currently vacant closer position.

The next best piece in the trade is 20-year-old shortstop Hak-Ju Lee.  Lee was signed by the Cubs out of Korea and the 18-year-old impressed at Low-A, putting up a .330/.399/.420 line with 34 steals in 264 at bats.  All you can say when you look at that is “wow, can he be on my fantasy team, please?”  The line was driven by a crazy .397 BABIP and his 2010 A-ball numbers were more reasonable at .282/.354/.351 with a .341 BABIP and 32 steals in 485 at bats.  Lee is still years away from the majors and has gap power at best, but when he’s ready he’ll be one to target with .300 BA and 50+ SB upside. 

While Brandon Guyer is not one of the trade’s main pieces, he actually may have the most potential to make an impact in 2011.  Here are his numbers at Double-A last year in 410 plate appearances: .344 BA, .398 OBP, .588 SLG (led the Southern League), 13 HR, 30 SB (3 CS).

The caveats are that he was a little old for the league at 24 and had a .371 BABIP, but when you look at his Major League Equivalent line for 2010 (courtesy of Baseball Forecaster) it’s .297/.333/.489 with 10 HR and 22 SB.  That’s in 369 at bats, so if somehow Guyer filled the vacancy created by Carl Crawford’s departure, he may be one to target. 

Also headed to the Rays is catching prospect Robinson Chirinos.  Chirinos put up 18 HR and a .326/.416/.583 line between Double-A and Triple-A last year and is said to play solid defense after being converted from the infield in 2008.  After a .915 OPS in 2009 Chirinos followed that up with a .999 last year.  If he really is the total package at catcher we may be looking at another player who can make some waves at the big league level.

Overall this deal is a bit of a head scratcher, as the Cubs seem to have given up a larger haul for Garza than the Brewers gave up for Zach Greinke.  From the Cubs perspective, they dealt from positions of strength in order to add a starter to the top half of their rotation, which had been depleted since the loss of Ted Lilly.  If Lilly’s success coming from the AL East is any indicator, Garza is going to enjoy his time as a Cub, however pricey it may have been to acquire him. 

What are your thoughts of the deal?  How will Garza produce in the National League?  Did the Cubs give up too much to acquire him?

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One comment

  1. Erik F says:

    Good deal for the Rays.

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