Garza is Chicago bound (AP)
Forget about the Cubs being content with rebuilding – at least for now. The club has dealt five players, including three of its top minor league prospects, to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Matt Garza in a move that may put the team back into contention in the National League Central sooner than many expected.
The trade is still pending physicals, but many of the prospects involved in the deal are en route to Tampa for that very purpose.
The five players involved include top pitching prospect Christopher Archer, shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee, outfield prospect Brandon Guyer, plus outfielder Sam Fuld and catcher Robinson Chirinos.
The Cubs will also receive minor league outfielder Fernando Perez as part of the deal.
With the addition of Garza, the Cubs get a 15-game winner coming off arguably his best season. The 27-year-old was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts last season. He helped pitch the Rays to the American League East Division championship and tossed a complete-game no-hitter on July 26 against Detroit.
Garza finished second on the Rays’ staff to David Price in wins, ERA, innings pitched, and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched).
As such, Chicago had to give up a steep price to get him – namely three of its top prospects.
Archer, 22, led the Cubs' farm system in wins a season ago with a 15-3 mark between Double-A Tennessee and Class High-A Daytona. His 2.34 ERA was the best in the system for a minimum 100 innings, and he also led the organization in strikeouts with 149 in 142 1/3 innings. He put together two seven-game winning streaks and was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Cubs’ farm system by Baseball America entering 2011.
The Cubs initially acquired Archer from the Indians for INF Mark DeRosa following the 2008 season.
Lee, 20, was among a plethora of middle infielders caught in a logjam in the system, but nevertheless batted .282 with 22 doubles, 40 RBI and a .354 on-base percentage for Single-A Peoria last season. His 32 stolen bases placed third in the farm system.
Lee was a top Cubs signing on the international market from Korea in early 2008.
Guyer, who will turn 25 this month, was one of the most athletic players in the Cubs’ system and had a bounce-back season at Double-A in 2010, batting .344 with 13 home runs, 39 doubles, and 58 RBI in 102 games. He also stole 30 bases.
Guyer was a fifth-round Cubs draft pick from Virginia in 2007.
Fuld, 29, was a 10th round Cubs draft pick from Stanford in 2004, who spent parts of three seasons with the big league club. He batted .143 in 19 games with Chicago last year and spent most of the year at Triple-A Iowa, batting .272 with 66 walks to only 37 strikeouts in 112 contests.
Chirinos, 26, came to the Cubs' system from Venezuela back in 2000. He spent most of last season at Double-A, batting .318 in 77 games, but was known mostly for his defense. He threw out six of 15 opposing runners (40 percent) a season ago.
A Cubs official refused comment on the deal because the trade is not yet official.