The Garza Trade – A Minor League Perspective

I’m taking some time out from preparing the Down on the Farm report in order to offer some observations on the recent eight-player trade. Please keep in mind that these are just observations … from a Minor League perspective.

1. The Cubs are happy with their organizational depth at shortstop.

This trade can be seen as a ringing endorsement for Starlin Castro and how he will develop, both offensively and defensively. It also says they are satisfied with the development of Darwin Barney, Marwin Gonzalez, Junior Lake, and Wes Darvill. Hak-Ju Lee was defensively the best out of all of these players. However, with the exception of Lake, all of the others are no slouches on defense.

2. The Cubs had concerns about moving Starlin Castro to another position.

Hak-Ju Lee is a shortstop, period (some may say exclamation point). His skill set does not project to any other position. In order for him to make the major league roster, Castro would have needed to move to somewhere else on the diamond. There has been speculation of moves to second, third, and outfield. Each move would have had their special problems. The Cubs avoided making these decisions by simply trading Lee away.

3. The Cubs are satisfied with their player development at second and third base.

The system depth at third (in descending order) is Marquez Smith, Josh Vitters, and Matt Cerda; the depth at second is Tony Thomas, D.J. LeMahieu, and Pierre LePage. The wild card is Ryan Flaherty, who can play both positions. The Cubs may feel that at least two of these players will eventually make the Major League roster. That would have forced another position change by Castro if Lee was still with the team. They may also feel that Barney, Gonzalez, or Darvill could convert to another infield position.

4. The Cubs addressed a need for left-handed pitching in their system.

As of right now, the Cubs’ biggest deficiencies in their minor league system are left-handed pitching and right-handed power. The Cubs addressed one of these by acquiring Zach Rosscup in the trade. While Rosscup is a long way away from the majors, his 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio and 0.95 WHIP are intriguing.

5. The Cubs like their depth at the catcher position

Since converting to the catcher position two years ago, Robinson Chirinos showed amazing progress, both offensively and defensively. He had bypassed more prominent prospects such as Welington Castillo, Steve Clevenger and Michael Brenly on the depth chart. The organization must feel that despite Chirinos’ success, it has promising players behind starting catcher Geovany Soto in Castillo, Clevenger, Brenly, and Micah Gibbs.

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  • John_CC

    Thanks for sharing your observations, Tom. They are practical and sensible. I am having a hard time skewering Hendry over this trade. I was mad at first, but it just seems irrational now. There are far too many unknowns in this trade to be so firmly entrenched on one side or the other — In My Opinion.

    Trading is always a gamble. Since Garza shows no major red flags – in terms of his health or arm or mental stability or age or any of the other major flags that JH has been known to intentionally overlook – then the winners and losers of this trade will not be known until the prospects that the Cubs sent packing make their way to the majors.

  • PleaseStopLosing

    6. Or it could be viewed as Hendry trying to save his job for one more year by throwing away a lot of future potential to improve our finish this year from 5th to 4th or 3rd in the division…. Long term I fear this will prove to be a horrible move that was done by trader Jim figuring he doesn’t care about winning in the future… He cares about having a job.

  • Gary J

    An observation that could be added is that the Cubs evaluators are high on McNutt as (if he is to be believed) Hendry stated that the Rays wanted a top pitching prospect in the deal and insisted on Archer or McNutt – and the Cubs chose to retain McNutt. Baseball Prospectus and Minor League Ball both had McNutt rated (slightly) higher than Archer although I’d say any rankings are pretty subjective. It’s pretty telling though that McNutt is still a Cub.

    • Ripsnorter1

      When I think about your post, it reminds me when the Cubs had two–count ‘em, 2–first basemen, and they wanted to deal one away for a pitcher. There names were Mark Grace and Raffy Palmeiro. Which one did they deal away? The future Hall of Famer. They kept the low power hitting Grace and dealt away the 500 HR hitting Palmeiro.

      Which to keep? Archer or McNutt? . . . .
      Maybe neither one will amount to anything. Who knows?

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        Rip, I just gotta know … are you saying you would rather have had Palmeiro than Grace?

        • Ripsnorter1

          Of course.

          Raffy’s 569 HR .515 career slugging .288 BA .885 OPS ***1835 RBI
          VS.
          Grace’s 173 HR, .442 slugging .303 BA .825 OPS 1146 RBI. Man, that’s 60.1% more RBI’s

          • Ripsnorter1

            And don’t forget, the real point is that the Cubs have not been known for their great talent evaluations, either.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Thanks for the response.

          • paulcatanese

            In no way do I want to dis-credit Grace for his contribution to the Cubs and I am sure you feel the same way,but. If one were to look at just stats and no name on the top of them ,I would agree whole heartidly with you,no comparison at all,it would have to be Raffy. I would go so far as to say their might have been a World Series in that time frame.

          • Gary J

            I remember at the time that the reason they held onto Grace was that they felt he had more power potential :-)

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MCTINSDIF4ZSEQGJJ7KUNU256I Horatio Vonsnackster

            I think its obvious now that Raffy was significantly aided by ‘roids, and Grace and his social life never realized his potential, though still had a very solid career.

            Oh yeah and Raffy fooled around with Sandberg’s wife.

  • jw

    Good subject for the post…obviously the Cubs feel like they are okay but can you trust the Cubs talent evaluation? If you do then the trade looks better from that perspective. I am not sure why Castro has so much influence that he can demand he plays SS instead of 2nd and I am not sure that the other SS prospects have anywhere near the upside of Lee…just my opinion.

    • John_CC

      Nowhere did anyone claim that Castro demanded anything. That is a misleading statement. It sounds like the organization does not want to move Castro around, for whatever their reasons are. I am not arguing that this is a good decision or bad one, but it is indeed an organizational decision, not a demand by a 20 year old rookie.

      • jw

        John…It was a little unclear in the post as to what the reasons might be so perhaps it was reckless speculation on my part. It would be very interesting to know what those reasons are…I am not sure why a competent shortstop could not play 2b…isn’t that the easier of the two positions?

        • John_CC

          I don’t know either, jw. While Castro is a competent SS, he is still learning the position. I can only assume but I reckon the reasoning would be that after three years at SS he will be a lot better why move him again and start over. I don’t know, man. I am not going to pretend to understand the Cubs management philosophy…

    • paul catanese

      On Castro,his influence to remain at shortstop has been silent. His performence at the Major League level has dictated that he remain there….for the present.Management obviously feels that their are too many problems at this time moving him around, although I feel that he is a good enough athlete to make any of position changes that have been mentioned before. I individualy felt that he could play center or third with equal success,but then thats not my call.

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Tom – DJ Lemahieu played 39 games at 3b last year as well.

    • Tom U

      Can’t sneak anything past you, Patrick.

  • Bill GilmoreTowncvbg

    I hope that they don’t give up on Flaherty. He has that same mentel attitude that was bestoyed on him by his Dad. An incredable work ethic and the ability to be versital around any infield. When he fully blossoms, someone will pluck him away and he will prove to be a tremendous asset going forward

    Bill Gilmore

  • studio179

    Tim Wilken was in on McNutt for a long time when not much of anyone was scouting him. He got McNutt in the 32nd round in 2009. Prospects are just that…a prospect, until proven. However, the Cubs and Wilken have to be pleased with how McNutt has performed so far and shot up the rankings.