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MLBTR is launching a new series entitled "Transaction Retrospection" in which we'll take a look back on trades that have taken place to see how the players involved — including low-level minor leaguers — have fared in new settings and how the involved teams have been impacted. Last week looked at the Josh Reddick trade, but remember that you can look back on other trades using MLBTR's Transaction Tracker.
Matt Garza has been involved in his share of high-profile moves. Since being drafted 25th overall by the Twins out of Fresno State in 2005, Garza has switched organizations in two marquee deals, and he once again finds himself as a trade candidate. He's been with the Cubs for a little more than two calendar years, but it seems like longer given the amount of trade rumors which constantly contain his name.
On January 8, 2011, the Rays traded Garza to the Cubs along with Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup in exchange for prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos and Brandon Guyer as well as outfielder Sam Fuld. Let's go player-by-player to see how it's all turned out…
The Major League Side
- Matt Garza: Garza immediately became one of the Cubs' best pitchers following the trade, and he showed it off with arguably the best season of his career. In 2011, Garza tallied 198 innings and established career-bests in ERA (3.32), K/9 (8.95) and HR/9 (0.64). He continued to display strong command and took a step toward establishing himself as an ace-caliber pitcher. Fangraphs pegged his value at a lofty 4.9 wins above replacement. His 2012 effort was derailed by a stress reaction in his pitching elbow after just 103 2/3 innings, however, which is likely the main reason that he wasn't traded at the deadline last July. While his elbow appears to be healed, Garza recently suffered a lat strain while facing live hitters and now stands to miss the first month of the 2013 season. Needless to say, that jeopardizes his No. 9 ranking on Tim Dierkes' free agent power rankings, but if he returns healthy and pitches well he's a midseason trade candidate.
- Sam Fuld: Fuld's time in Tampa Bay got off to an incredible start, hitting .289/.358/.433 in the month of April. His defensive play, clutch hitting and surprising production spawned the Twitter hashtag "#LegendOfSamFuld," and the 29-year-old developed a cult following. He hit just .218/.292/.327 the rest of the way, however, and didn't improve in 107 plate appearances last season. He's competing for a roster spot with Tampa Bay once again this Spring.
The Minor League Side
- Chris Archer: Archer came to the Rays as an erratic 22-year-old with an electric fastball. He still battles command issues, but he's progressed enough to rank as the game's No. 36 prospect according to Baseball America and No. 46 according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. BA writes that his fastball sits 92-96 mph and is one of two "well above-average" pitches, the other being a devastating hard slider with "hard, cutting tilt and impressive depth." Mayo prefers Archer's fastball but echoes that both pitches can be plus at the MLB level. The two outlets agree that Archer's change-up development will be what determines if he's able to pan out as a top- or middle-of-the-rotation starter. Archer did make his MLB debut in 2012, firing 29 1/3 innings and whiffing 36 batters.
- Hak-Ju Lee: Lee is ranked 90th in the game by BA and 56th by Mayo, good for fourth and fifth in the Rays' system, respectively. Mayo writes that defensively, the Korean-born shortstop is more than MLB-ready right now, but he needs more time to develop his line-drive swing. His plus speed is an asset which both Mayo and BA agree upon. Both think he'll be a legitimate base-stealing threat, even if his lack of home-run power limits his overall upside a bit. Lee offers an opposite-field approach at the plate but needs to develop a more patient approach. He stole 37 bases in 46 tries as part of a .261/.336/.360 season at Double-A in 2012.
- Robinson Chirinos: A catcher by trade, Chirinos came to the Rays having ranked as the Cubs' No. 10 prospect according to BA. He regressed in 2011, however, hitting just .259/.343/.376 in 319 plate appearances — a vast departure from 2010's .326/.416/.583 line. Chirinos had a chance to make the Rays last Spring, but suffered a concussion that prevented him from playing a single game in the minors or Majors. He's with the team again in Spring Training this season, but his stock has obviously fallen.
- Brandon Guyer: Guyer entered the 2012 season as the Rays' No. 11 prospect according to BA, thanks largely to the .312/.384/.521 triple slash line the outfielder posted at Triple-A in 2011. BA praised his combination of speed and power as well as his throwing arm, noting that he profiled nicely in right field but could handle center field as well. Guyer earned a call-up in early May, but disaster struck after just three games; he suffered a labrum tear that would end his season before he was able to back up his minor league promise.
- Fernando Perez: Perez wasn't thought of as much of a prospect at the time of the trade, and indeed he never cracked the Cubs' big league roster. After hitting just .238/.312/.337 through 76 games for the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate, he was released. Perez latched on with the Mets, but fared even worse in 40 games for Triple-A Buffalo, hitting .188/.298/.250. He didn't play in affiliated ball last season.
- Zach Rosscup: Rosscup hasn't cracked one of BA's Top 30 prospect lists for either team, nor has he appeared on one of Mayo's Top 20 lists. Now 24 years old, the southpaw suffered an arm injury midway through a promising 2011 season (2.54 ERA, 9.1 K/9). Upon returning in late 2012, he worked his way to Double-A and showed mixed results. Rosscup whiffed 29 batters in 22 1/3 innings at Double-A but also walked 19 and posted a 4.84 ERA. His 3.87 FIP showed more promise, and he'll likely open the 2013 season at that level.
The Rays have made a habit out of competing in one of baseball's toughest divisions despite having one of baseball's lowest payrolls, and trades like this are a large factor in that success. Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman dealt from a position of strength to acquire a host of prospects — two of which have developed into Top 100 prospects and two of which had their promising offensive potential limited by unforeseeable injuries. The Garza trade also paved the way for Jeremy Hellickson to join Tampa Bay's rotation and win 2011 AL Rookie of the Year honors.
The Cubs, meanwhile, got just the pitcher they were hoping for in Garza, but he too has been slowed by the injury bug. Garza would fit nicely atop Chicago's rebuilt rotation if he can return quickly, and he could net the team prospects this July if pitching well. Garza could also yield a first-round pick in 2014 if he turns down a qualifying offer, but his recent rash of injuries makes that a dicey proposition, as even the healthy Kyle Lohse has struggled to find a home due to his ties to draft pick compensation.
It's too early to say if one side got the better of this trade at this point, as Tampa Bay has yet to receive much value at the Major League level. However, the Rays seem to have positioned themselves for future success by moving a player when his value was near its peak.
Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, made his Arizona Fall League debut yesterday, and ESPN's Keith Law says he hit 100 mph twice and sat at 95-98 (Insider req'd). "I projected Cole as a No. 1 starter based on the plus fastball/changeup combo and the chance for the slider to become plus as well," said Law, "and for his first professional outing Cole didn't show anything to change that ceiling."
Here are a few draft-related links, even though we're still nine months away from the actual event…
- Fernando Perez, a high school third baseman/outfielder from California, will forego the spring semester at Otay Ranch High School to enroll at Central Arizona Community College according to ESPN's Andrew Knepper. It's the same move Bryce Harper used to become draft-eligible a year earlier than expected. Perez has a chance to go in the first round next June.
- Baseball America's Jim Callis notes (on Twitter) that signing bonuses have increased just 3.8% since MLB's slot recommendations were put in place in 2000. He adds that bonuses rose 26.9% during the 1990s and 10.2% during the 1980s.
- In another tweet, Callis says he doesn't expect there to be major changes to the draft in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In a continuing effort to round up all the best-educated baseball players, the New York Mets signed Fernando Perez this week, outfielder formerly of Tampa Bay, Chicago (N.L.) and Columbia University. The move provides the Mets with depth in the poetry department, as Perez will join fellow published poet Miguel Batista on the Triple-A Buffalo roster. Should current author R.A. Dickey suffer from writer's block, the team will be covered.
Perez is one of just 13 major leaguers to ever make the leap from Columbia to the big leagues, and certainly not the most famous. Lou Gehrig holds that honor, one of two Hall of Famers from the esteemed school. Gehrig means little to us at MLBTR, however, since he failed to make the transaction wire from the moment he signed with the Yankees until the day he retired.
The other Lion Hall of Famer, Eddie Collins, enjoyed similar stability in his professional career. Collins played with the Philadelphia Athletics from 1906-1914, earning the rare distinction of getting sold just after winning the MVP award and leading his team to the American League pennant. Connie Mack's A's needed money, and where better to get it than by selling off the $100K infield? Collins, just 27 when he got to the White Sox, played a dozen seasons in Chicago. He finished in the top-five in MVP voting three times, and his stats are very pretty. He then returned to Philadelphia in a part-time role at age 40 from 1927-1930, acting as a mentor for the next great Connie Mack team.
Even Gene Larkin, a player not in the same discussion as Collins or Gehrig, provides a lesson in stability with his career. He only played with one team, Minnesota, from the moment the Twins drafted him in 1984 until he retired a decade later. And his production itself stayed utterly still. His career batting average was .266. His batting average in his rookie season, 1987? .266. A year later? .267. The year after that? .267. The year after that? .269. It would be nearly impossible to plan such consistency.
So what do we make of Perez, now on his third organization at just age 28? Will he be shunned at his college reunion? Is this simply a nefarious ploy to allow Perez to complete a baseball version of On The Road?
Perez does have an alumni comparison, baseball-wise. His name was Fresco Thompson, and he was part of a pair of trades that compare well to the six-player deal that sent Perez from the Rays to the Cubs for, principally, Matt Garza. Thompson, following a brief appearance with the New York Giants in 1926, was part of a three-team trade. The Phillies received Thompson and pitcher Jack Scott. The Brooklyn Robins received catcher Butch Henline. And the Giants received pitcher Burleigh Grimes, the Matt Garza of the deal. Grimes pitched a stellar 1927 for the Giants, then got sent to the Pirates, where he simply continued his Hall of Fame career.
As for Fresco, he played four seasons at second base for the Phillies, where his .300 batting average was deceptive – the offensive context of park and era means his OPS+ was just 90. Thompson then became part of another huge deal – he and Lefty O'Doul went to Brooklyn Clise Dudley, Jumbo Elliott, Hal Lee and cash following the 1930 season. Thompson was an afterthought in this deal; O'Doul, who had hit .398 in 1929 for Philadelphia, hit .368 for Brooklyn in 1932, winning batting titles in both seasons. And all Elliott did was lead the National League with 19 victories in 1931.
Meanwhile, Thompson played sparingly for Brooklyn in 1931 and 1932, then briefly for the Giants in 1933, just blocks from his alma mater. Later on, he became a fixture in the International League, hitting over .300 repeatedly through the mid-1930s. So if Fernando Perez merely becomes a Fresco Thompson, there will be no shame in it. And, given his Columbia education, I assume Perez himself could tell us if there's a better historical analogy to be made.
The Mets signed Fernando Perez to a minor league contract, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). The Cubs, who acquired the 28-year-old in January the trade that brought Matt Garza to Chicago, released the outfielder ten days ago.
Perez hit .206/.206/.206 in 35 plate appearances for the Cubs this year, playing all three outfield positions. The switch-hitter spent most of the season at Triple-A Iowa, where he posted a .238/.312/.337 line with 17 stolen bases.