Would you give up Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer and Robinson Chirinos to get Matt Garza. The Cubs are getting set to do just that, I've learned this morning. An announcement is not imminent for several reasons (physical exams, for one), but that is the package (based on several conversations with reliable sources I've had last night and early this morning) the Cubs will to give up to get what they believe is a No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher. I've also learned there may be additional parts to the deal for each team.
UPDATE: Sources tell me the Cubs will send outfielder Sam Fuld to the Rays and that the Rays will send OF Fernando Perez and another player to Chicago.
Although reports earlier this week of an imminent trade might have been premature, there's no doubt Cubs GM Jim Hendry is working feverishly to get Garza. This morning, we'll take a look at some of the factors in such a trade, if it takes place in the next few days or not until later or not at all.
Whether you like or don't like Hendry, one of his traits is dogged persistence. As I've written before, Hendry tends to focus like the proverbial laser beam on what he wants, and he either gets it or damn near dies trying. It seems to me, based on several conversations, Hendry is doing all he can to pry Garza from the Rays, who have Garza, B.J. Upton and Andy Sonnanstine as arbitration eligible players this winter.
The only so-called untouchables on the Cubs are shortstop Starlin Castro, pitcher Andrew Cashner and center-field prospect Brett Jackson. To me, Archer should be in that group, but you have to give up something to get something, and that’s the price of poker, as Hendry likes to say.
The good news for those who follow Cubs prospects is that pitcher Trey McNutt does not appear to be part of any deal. Nor does third baseman Josh Vitters, although opinion is split on whether Vitters remains a top-flight prospect. Lee is a middle infielder. Archer was the Cubs' minor-league pitcher of the year in 2010, and outfielder Guyer was their minor-league player of the year. Chirinos is 25 and is a catcher converted from an infielder.
I can hear the howls of protest now: The Cubs have spent all this time building a good farm system, and now Hendry is going to trade it all away. Those protests aren't entirely baseless. On the other hand, the Cubs will tell you that part of a having a good farm system is using that talent for your own club as well as to obtain major-league talent.
Except for one trade, Hendry has done a good job with these types of trades. See Rich Harden, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. The one big clunker was the trade of three pitchers, including Ricky Nolasco to Florida for Juan Pierre between the 2005 and 2006 seasons. The Cubs overrated Pierre's strengths and underrated his weaknesses. They also look bad because they traded three young pitchers for a guy they had for only one year.
Their take on a Garza deal will be that they have Garza under control for several years and that he's a possible top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The first part is true; the second part is open to question. The Cubs also will tell you Garza has pitched in pressure and playoff situations, whereas a pitcher such as Zach Greinke (who went to the Brewers) has not.
Hendry has repeatedly said, and I think he believes it, that the Cubs are 3-4 moves away from contending in the NL Central again. Garza would be the third major move this winter, when the Cubs have signed first baseman Carlos Pena and reliever Kerry Wood, getting Wood for only $1.5 million and perhaps freeing up the money it would take to withstand even an arbitration hit by Garza.
A large segment of the Cubs' fan base has turned against Hendry after two straight disappointing seasons and with the 2004-06 disasters not forgotten, either.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts seems still to have great faith in Hendry, who is signed through 2012. In the back of his mind, though, Hendry has to feel that the Cubs have to win this year; Ricketts might not have wanted to eat two years of Hendry's contract, but one might be palatable. Even though Ricketts has expressed his belief in the farm system, I doubt he'd veto this type of Garza scenario if he thought it could get the Cubs back into position for the playoffs.
Things have been very quiet around Wrigley Field the last few days, with Hendry hunkered down. Turns out it was a little too quiet.