Thoughts on the Matt Garza deal

Jeff Gross

Ruminating about the Rangers big trade to bring in Matt Garza

So, Matt Garza was traded to the Rangers yesterday, for Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, and either one or two players to be named later -- the Cubs reportedly can either pick Neil Ramirez, or they can have two other players who have apparently already been agreed to, with the Cubs being able to make that selection by season's end.

You can read Sam Miller, Jason Parks, and Jason Cole and their takes on this in a free article here at Baseball Prospectus.

You can read John Sickels' thoughts here.

Keith Law has his thoughts on the deal here.

Jeff Sullivan had a post at FanGraphs, before the trade went down, offering his thoughts on why the Rangers would be pursuing Garza so aggressively.

And while I think most of the people who read LSB also subscribe to Jamey Newberg's email reports, in case you don't, you can read Jamey's thoughts here.

So with all those smart people weighing in, it leaves to wonder what there is for me to say, particularly given that I wrote a lot of words (1303, to be exact) about Garza on Thursday.

If you'd asked me a week ago whether I'd be okay with trading Olt, Edwards, Grimm and Ramirez for Garza, I'd have said no, I don't like that deal, don't do it. Now that its sunk in, I still don't like the deal...but I don't hate it. I'm coming around to being okay with it.

And I'm not alone in this, it seems. Last week, I did a poll asking whether you would trade Olt, Ramirez and Leury Garcia for Garza. There were 1506 votes, and 57% said "no."

The actual deal involves Edwards and Grimm instead of Garcia -- obviously, a significantly better package that what I posed in the original poll. And then yesterday, I put up a poll asking how folks felt about the actual trade. With 1955 votes as of the time I'm typing this post, 45% either liked or loved it, 40% either didn't like it or hated it, and the rest were in the "meh" category. So there was some shift in opinion once the deal went down.

Part of that may be the horror of watching Ross Wolf give up 7 runs in 2 innings in the midst of the Rangers getting swept at home by the Baltimore Orioles, falling three games out of first place and a game and a half out of the Wild Card race. I think a bigger part of it, though, has to do with having a certain level of trust in this front office, which has established itself as one of the best front offices in baseball. Unlike, say, when the Cowboys make a move I'm not thrilled with, Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, and Company have a certain amount of goodwill. I have more faith that they are going to make the right decision.

That being said, the cost to rent Matt Garza was steep. Outside observers have been largely unanimous in their praise of the haul the Chicago Cubs got back, and as Sam Miller notes, the Cubs may have gotten a bigger package for Garza now than they would have gotten from the Rangers last July, when Texas was interested in trading for Garza before being scared off by his elbow.

This is a trade of quantity over quality -- Olt is the only prospect with an argument for being a top 50 guy right now, and even he isn't in the top 50 on a lot of mid-season lists. The Cubs didn't get someone who profiles as a potential star. But to give up on that, they got four very solid prospects -- three pitchers who profile as potential mid- to back-end rotation guys or impact relievers, as well as a player, in Olt, whose upside is as a above-average major league third baseman.

From the Rangers' side, these are clearly guys that the Rangers could afford to part with. They didn't "sell the farm." Olt was blocked by Adrian Beltre, and his big selling point is his combination of offense and a quality glove at the hot corner. I felt that, rather than sell low on Olt this summer, it would make some sense to have him play 60 or so games at third base next season, allowing you to give Beltre and his hamstrings some rest by DHing him more, and then have Olt pick up another 70 or so starts by playing first base, DH, or the outfield. That said, I can also understand why the organization wouldn't want to go in that direction, and that, given his age, his injury history, and his difficult 2013 campaign, it was time to move him.

Grimm was the guy who I thought was the favorite to be the fifth starter this spring, ahead of even Martin Perez. The organization had invested a lot of money in signing Grimm in the summer of 2010 -- when the Rangers were still in bankruptcy court -- and promoted him directly from AA to the majors to start last summer. But Grimm had a bad spring, and while he showed signs that he could have success in the major leagues when he was pressed into duty after Matt Harrison went down, his command was too spotty for the Rangers to rely on him in the rotation in the second half. The fact that the Rangers put him in the bullpen so that Ross Wolf could be in the rotation in the second half should have tipped me off as to how far his star had fallen, and the fact that they apparently used Garza's medical concerns as a basis to give the Cubs Grimm rather than Rougned Odor -- the high-A second baseman the Cubs apparently preferred -- confirms that.

Grimm was drafted by Theo Epstein out of high school in 2007, and so Epstein and his team in Chicago have a level of interest and familiarity in him that probably helped this deal get done. Ramirez and Edwards are also nice pieces who have potential, but if the Cubs get a back-end starter and a solid reliever out of this trio, they'll probably be thrilled. The Rangers didn't give up potential top of the rotation guys...they gave up live arms, and while it hurts to part with them, live arms is something the Ranger system hasn't lacked for in recent years.

What is most interesting to me about this deal is what Jeff Sullivan really focused on in his piece at FanGraphs...the Rangers, who have tended to be relatively conservative when it comes to dealing prospects, who have been criticized for over-valuing their prospects, who have shied away from making significant long-term sacrifices to win in the short-term, pushed a bunch of chips in the center of the table in order land a middle of the rotation starter. Garza isn't Cliff Lee, even though the cost to acquire him was close to the cost of acquiring Lee. Yu Darvish is better than Garza. The 2013 version of Derek Holland is better than Garza. The Matt Harrison from 2011-12 is better than Garza.

The Rangers didn't get a game-changing, Game One playoff starter. They got a guy who fills a gaping hole, and paid a hefty price to do so. They gave up, as Dan Szymborski tweeted, six years of Olt, six years of Ramirez, six years of Edwards, and five years of Grimm to get 11-12 starts from Garza the rest of the way, and potentially five playoff starts.

What that suggests to me is that the Rangers don't want to have a repeat of 2012. They don't want to finish a game out of the playoffs and wonder, "what if." They don't want to lose the momentum they've built as an organization with the fans and with this community, after two World Series appearances, by following up a collapse in 2012 with not making the playoffs in 2013.

So, as others have noted, you have to think another move is coming. Right now, the team's everyday lineup features Jurickson Profar as the DH, a slumping David Murphy in left field, and a potentially-going-to-be-suspended Nelson Cruz in right field. The Rangers clearly need a bat, someone who can DH and slot in the middle of the lineup. And with Ryan Braun accepting a suspension in connection with the Biogenesis investigation, with Alex Rodriguez rumored to be looking to cut a deal, you could potentially see suspensions come and appeals processed (or deals cut) more quickly than we previously believed.

So expect another move on the horizon for a bat. And look for the Rangers to be more aggressive than they've been in years past in trying to "win now."

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