Cubs bulk up rotation with Garza

The Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays found each other, and it was just a matter of time.

The Cubs – often reckless, borderline gluttonous, usually desperate and forever disappointing – had finished fifth in the NL Central, ahead of a Quadruple-A franchise and just behind the stripped-down Houston Astros.

The Rays – smart, savvy and defending AL East champions – are downsizing, had a surplus of starting pitching and have a knack for squeezing more out of a dollar than any team in baseball.

On Friday, straight out of eHarmony, they reportedly came together on an eight-player trade.

Matt Garza pitched a no-hitter against the Tigers last season.
(David J. Phillip/AP Photo)

The Cubs are to receive 27-year-old right-hander and burgeoning ace Matt Garza(notes), setting up a rotation of Garza, Carlos Zambrano(notes), Ryan Dempster(notes) and some mix of Randy Wells(notes), Andrew Cashner(notes), Carlos Silva(notes), Tom Gorzelanny(notes) and Jeff Samardzija(notes), though presumably Cubs general manager Jim Hendry will now put one or two of those on the market.

In three seasons with the Rays and in the stacked AL East, Garza made 94 starts, was 34-31, had a 3.86 ERA and, in July, no-hit the Detroit Tigers. While his ERA seemingly would project well in the NL, he is a fly-ball pitcher who has allowed 53 home runs over the past two seasons. His new home – Wrigley Field – can be especially unkind to those tendencies.

Two minor leaguers – outfielder Fernando Perez(notes) and a pitcher, according to the Daily Herald – will also go to the Cubs.

In return, the Rays – whose winter has seen them trade shortstop Jason Bartlett(notes) and lose to free agency left fielder Carl Crawford(notes), first baseman Carlos Pena (to the Cubs) and relievers Joaquin Benoit(notes) and Rafael Soriano(notes) – are to acquire five players: right-hander Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, infielder Robinson Chirinos and outfielders Sam Fuld(notes) and Brandon Guyer.

Archer, who pitched as high as Double-A in 2010, was the Cubs’ top-ranked prospect, according to Baseball America. Some scouts view him as a potential closer. Blocked by shortstop Starlin Castro(notes), Lee was the organization’s fourth-best prospect, though, at 20, is slightly older than Castro.

The Cubs get the immediate impact in a highly competitive division, in which:

• The Milwaukee Brewers assembled a representative rotation with additions Zack Greinke(notes) and Shaun Marcum(notes) to go with Yovani Gallardo(notes), Randy Wolf(notes) and Chris Narveson(notes).

• The St. Louis Cardinals re-signed Jake Westbrook(notes) and added Lance Berkman(notes).

• The Cincinnati Reds, largely unchanged after winning 91 games last season, reportedly are near a deal with Edgar Renteria(notes).

Following the three finest years of their existence, the Rays have followed through on their agenda to cut payroll and position themselves for the future. Garza earned $3.35 million last season and is due an arbitration bump. Yet, even with his departure, the Rays will pitch well on most nights, given David Price(notes), James Shields(notes), Wade Davis(notes), Jeff Niemann(notes) and Jeremy Hellickson(notes) remain.

As of late Friday morning, the trade was pending final details, including physicals for many of the players involved.

Tim Brown is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. He co-authored with Jim Abbott the memoir “Imperfect: an Improbable Life”.   Follow him on Twitter.   Send Tim a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Jan 7, 2011