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Cubs Tue Jul 23 2013

Cubs Load Up With Returns From Garza Trade

Cubs_200.pngIn the past two years, the Cubs have become quite familiar with the minor league system of the Texas Rangers. After swinging a deadline deal last year that sent Ryan Dempster to Arlington for a package that included this year's Southern League All-Star starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs followed it up less than a year later by dealing Matt Garza, the hottest available starter on the market, for a package of four or five players, including top third base prospect Mike Olt.

Judging trades that involve a number of prospects is incredibly hard to do the day it happens. The hope is that the return is a healthy combination of quantity and quality when you're dealing what many consider the top player that is readily available on the market.

Here's what we do know, however. Whichever team traded for Garza was receiving a two month rental, and no more. Unless an extension is negotiated as part of the deal, then two months and roughly 12 starts is all you can count on. If you need proof of that, look no further than Dempster and Texas just last season. If all goes as planned, maybe a few extra starts in postseason play can be expected as well. So that's what the Cubs traded. A starter they weren't going to sign to a long-term extension because they didn't want to commit enough years/cash for a pitcher that's widely considered a number two or three starter to go along with an injury history that makes general managers wake up in pools of sweat if he's signed long term.

In return, the Cubs appear to have gotten both significant quantity and quality -- exactly as hoped. Olt is the highlight when it comes to quality in the deal. Before the 2013 season, he was a consensus Top 100 prospect in baseball, and second in the Rangers system behind recently promoted super-prospect Jurickson Profar.

He's a 24-year-old true third basemen that would easily rank as a plus defender at the position. He's also got raw power in pro ball that make scouts drool, drilling 28 homers in 95 games at double-A last season. His big problem (along with many Cubs prospects) is whether or not he'll make enough contact to see that power shine through.

After a miserable April that involved him battling vision problems from a tear duct issue in his right eye (which he believes was caused by a concussion he sustained in the Dominican Winter League last November), followed by missing the entire month of May, Olt has bounced back to hit .247 with 10 homers in the months of June and July. In reference to his contact rates -- those numbers have yet to improve with his eyesight -- striking out 57 times in 158 at bats since his return. He's also drawn 26 walks during that time, but the offensive numbers aren't what you'd hope from a top tiered prospect in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. He'll continue his work in Iowa for the remainder of the season, but could begin the 2014 season as the Cubs starting third basemen, with Luis Valbuena making a move to second. He still has room to grow, having only recorded less than two full seasons of at bats in the minor leagues.

Soon to be 25-year-old Justin Grimm is a command specialist that won't blow anyone away (averaging 91-92 on his fastball), and probably won't be any more than a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle relief pitcher because he only throws two pitches well (fastball and curve). He's had 3-to-1 and 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratios in the minor leagues before, but that number is inflated by the fact that he rarely walks anyone. Well, except for this season, where he's allowed 31 free passes in 89 innings to go along with a scary 6.37 ERA. The Cubs are hoping the easier National League will be a good change of pace, and hope they can help him develop a third pitch that allows him to get lefties out. He'll begin his work in Iowa as well.

CJ Edwards is the lottery ticket portion of the trade that is pretty typical of deals that involve top tier players. Edwards has been flying up the radars of front offices around baseball according to Buster Olney, while other scouts like Jason Parks from Baseball Prospectus believe he's a number four a five starter with a chance at being an impact reliever. He's dominated low-A this season to the tune of 122 Ks in just 93.1 innings to go along with just 34 walks and a 1.38 ERA. He throws a good fastball up to 95 with a solid curveball and developing changeup.

If two of those guys ended up working out for the Cubs, it would be a pretty amazing haul for a guy that had no future in Chicago. But they not only got the three guys named above, the North Siders will also receive one or two players to be named later that are on a list the teams have exchanged. One of the names is Neil Ramirez, another Top 15 prospect in the Rangers system who was rumored as the piece that derailed the deal between the two teams late last week because of his durability concerns.

For a team that isn't shy about the fact they're rebuilding, the Cubs pulled what appears to be a great return from a team in desperate need of a quality starter. It's a theme that has been consistent from Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer since coming to Chicago in late 2011, and pretty soon we'll be able to fully judge them for the prospects they've acquired since then.

 
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