So I've gone back and forth on the Matt Garza thing. For the most part, I'd like to trade him for prospects and build for 3 years down the road, but as I've made abundantly clear, I have no desire to trade him for anything less than a package of top prospects. The Cubs can afford to keep him and he's still young. Any trade of Garza has to make the team better down the road.
That got me thinking a little bit. How have other recent trades for top pitchers worked out for the team receiving prospects? I didn't want to go back too far because I wanted to catch the more recent trend with trade value. I also didn't want to look at trades that were too recent, since the verdict hasn't been out on the most recent trades. I decided to look at trades that were essentially top SPs in exchange for prospects between the years of 2008 and 2010. I remembered as many as I could: Erik Bedard, CC Sabathia, Rich Harden, Javier Vazquez, Jake Peavy...Cliff Lee 3 times and, of course, Roy Halladay. This is not a scientific evaluation, so much as taking a quick glance at the kind of prospects teams received in return and their impact with their new team. If I missed any recent trades, please feel free to add them in the comments section.
Here is a quick summary of trades involving those players in no particular order...
Cliff Lee I (Indians)
To Phillies for: Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson
Cliff Lee II (Phillies)
To Seattle for: Phillip Aumont, Jason Ramirez, Tyson Gillies
Cliff Lee III (Mariners)
To Texas for: Justin Smoak, Blake Beaven, Josh Lueke, Matt Lawson
CC Sabathia (Indians)
To Milwaukee for: Matt Laporta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson
Rich Harden (Athletics)
To Cubs for: Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, Josh Donaldson
Javier Vazquez (Braves)
To Yankees for: Michael Dunn, (Melky Cabrera), Arodys Vizcaino
Jake Peavy (Padres)
To White Sox for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Dexter Carter, Adam Russell
Roy Halladay (Blue Jays)
To Phillies for Travis D’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace
Roy Oswalt (Astros)
To Phillies for Anthony Gose, JA Happ, Jonathan Villar
Erik Bedard (Orioles)
To Mariners for Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio,Tony Butler
Few of the players acquired for the top starters have made the majors, but none of the prospects mentioned here have made a particularly big impact yet. Carlos Carrasco was 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA and showed some promise but he has gotten hurt. Justin Smoak hit .234 wth 15 HRs and was, for all intents and purposes, a replacement level player last season. Matt Laporta and Brett Wallace were even worse, finishing the year at below replacement level. Drabek struggled with his command and finished with a 6.06 ERA. JA Happ had a promising start, but has since battled injuries and his performance has also dropped. He went 6-15 with a 5.36 ERA last year. Clayton Richard put up some good numbers but he also got hurt last season. Blake Beaven had a decent rookie year with a 4.26 ERA but doesn't have a particularly high ceiling. Donald and Marson are basically backups at the MLB level. Michael Brantley was decent. He hit .266 with 7 HRs, but there's not a single player on this list you can call MLB average or better. The one exception in all of these trades is Adam Jones, who's a good player but not a superstar.
What about the prospects? There are some good ones out there. Anthony Gose is a good prospect, though he's no longer on the team that traded for him. That team, the Astros, now has the aforementioned Brett Wallace instead. Travis D'Arnaud is still with Toronto and is considered one of the best 25 prospects in baseball. Aroidys Vizcaino is a top 50 pitching prospect with the Braves. Villar is the 4th rated prospect in a weak Houston system. Most of the others have been disappointing. Aumont is the Phillies 5th rated prospect but he is now a bullpen arm.
They're all good prospects, but we won't know yet for sure if they'll be good MLB players. Judging from the rest of this list, the odds appear to be against that happening.
The point is that while it's exciting to get a package of top prospects, the likelihood that any of the players will be nearly as good as the player you are trading are slim at best. Sometimes you get lucky, as the Orioles did with Adam Jones, but for the most part these teams were worse off for having traded their front line pitcher.
I understand why the Cubs would trade Garza, but it is by no means anything close to a guarantee that the Cubs will be better off from a talent standpoint. It's more likely that they'll be worse off. If they make a trade, they better get top shelf talent back to minimize the risk as much as possible. If not, you keep him. And that seems like exactly the strategy what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have taken with any potential Garza trade. But even if the Cubs do trade Garza for a package of top prospects, recent history shows that the Cubs will probably still wind up on the losing end when it comes to talent.
Filed under: Cubs Rumors