Yesterday, Matt Garza became a member of the Texas Rangers, traded from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for third base prospect Mike Olt, pitchers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards and as many as two players to be named later – likely players selected in this past June’s draft.
At first blush, the deal seems like a good one for the Cubs and a necessary one for the Rangers. But that’s the thing about evaluating a trade hours after it becomes official: there is that which we know and much more we simply do not.
What we know about Matt Garza is clear: he’s a good pitcher! He has a history of good pitcherness (a real thing, I assure you), pitching well in the tough AL East for years. He even made a start in the World Series, a nice little value-add. He’s been very good in 2013, better than very good if you play the arbitrary endpoint game. He is a clear upgrade over the current back-end of their rotation and a valued starter in any playoff rotation.
But there are things we don’t know about Matt Garza’s future. Matt Garza can become a free agent at the end of the season, so the Rangers deployed the Flags Fly Forever rationale as they pay a steep price for a rental player.
Also less than clear: Matt Garza’s health. He missed significant time last year and missed a chunk of time to start this one, as well. The are some rumors and whispers that the Rangers balked at something they saw his Garza’s medicals, driving the Cubs asking price down from exciting shortstop prospect Rougned Odor to workmanlike 4/5 starter Justin Grimm.
Just as there are unknown quantities around Garza, there are questions about the centerpiece of the trade, Mike Olt. The truth is easy: Mike Olt’s numbers in his first full season at Triple-AAA do not inspire a great deal of confidence. Scouts and prospect watchers are down on Olt.
What Olt does have is a lot of prospect shine still on his name. He shot to the big leagues last season, hitting for power in the minor leagues and eventually earning a big league call-up, where he eventually rotted on the bench and made little in the way of impression. Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus mentions a vision problem that plagued Olt through much of the early stages of the season, to say nothing of a prior concussion.
The Cubs know more than what they can read on Baseball Reference and must believe in the Olt they saw last season and lately, rather than the one who struggled so badly to start the season or the one some scouts soured on. They feel his cause his not lost, based on what they’ve seen and heard.
They feel good about Edwards, too. The Rangers probably feel pretty good about using a player they selected in the 48th round as a legit trade chip in pursuit of a World Series title just as the Cubs feel good about grabbing a player with strong numbers and solid reviews. That’s tidy business on both sides of the ledger.
The Rangers address a pressing need for 2013 and the Cubs keep on doing what they’ve been doing since Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein took over: compiling talent. The Cubs are worse today and the Rangers are better. Better enough to make a third World Series run in four years? Might just be, though adding one player with 2+ months to go in the season doesn’t change that per se.
You don’t have to remind Rangers fans of the risks of making deadline deals. From trading Chris Davis (in a package, for a reliever – albeit an awesome one) to acquiring Ryan Dempster and Cliff Lee at the deadline in recent years, Rangers GM Jon Daniels is anything but timid when it comes to upgrading his team for a playoff run.
Two consecutive World Series appearances suggest he’s doing a good job at living by the “flags fly forever” motto, though he’s a little short on flags to show for his efforts.