So, I actually wrote this yesterday, but the Anthony Rizzo call-up and the Marlon Byrd story surfaced yesterday...and it was my wedding anniversary, so I wasn't around for most of the evening. It may not be breaking news, but I thought the Braves possible interest in Garza was worth exploring...
First off, I'm a Cubs fan and everyone else is a distant second, but one of the "other" teams I've always liked has been the Atlanta Braves. Part of that may have been because I was able to watch them on TBS, but part of it is they have consistently done things the right way. It started with GM John Scheurholz and it has continued under current GM Frank Wren.
I was as disappointed as any non-Braves fan could be in their collapse last year, was glad to see them off to a good start this year, and now I'd like to see them bolster their chances in what is a tough NL East this year. The Braves strength was thought to be pitching, but an injury to Brandon Beachy, the regression of Jair Jurrjens, and the inconsistency of talented young pitchers Mike Minor and Randall Delgado have left the Braves with two starting pitchers. Where once in Braves history it was "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain", now it's been Hudson and Hansen and take your chances...(okay, so maybe rhyming isn't my thing.)
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that there are 6 teams known to be scouting Garza including the Blue Jays, Royals, Tigers, Red Sox, Cardinals and, of course, the Braves.
The Royals are unlikely because they were just swept and John Morosi of Fox Sports now expects them to be sellers. We've talked about the Tigers, Red Sox, and Jays in the past. That leaves the Cardinals and the Braves. I'm loathe to want to help the Cardinals with anything, unless they blow us away, and with a revamped farm system, they certainly have that ability, but it's the Braves that are kind of an intriguing team in this scenario for me.
I want to start off by saying that the Cubs should want no part of Jurrjens. He's done it with smoke and mirrors for so long, he doesn't have impact starter type stuff, and it appears the league has caught up with him. As a secondary guy...maybe.
The Braves do have plenty of what the Cubs need, which is pitching. I've started my mid-season pitching prospect list and let me tell you that it's not nearly as fun as making the position player prospect list where the Cubs have several potential impact prospects.
Pitching is a whole different story.
Again, I'm not going to speculate on specific trade packages, so I'll leave that up to all of you. But there are a lot of good pitchers in the Braves system, starting with potential front line starter Julio Teheran, who has 3 quality MLB pitches -- a plus-plus change, a fastball that can reach 97 mph, and he also mixes in an above average curveball. Teheran is 5-4 with a 3.50 ERA but a mediocre 26 walk to 47 strikeout ratio in 64.1 innings helps contribute to a less than encouraging 5.05 FIP. Would the Braves sell on their top prospect? Unlikely, but he doesn't seem likely to help them this year. On the other hand, he's only 21, so it doesn't seem like they should be ready to give up on him.
LHP Sean Gilmartin, 22, is having a better year in AA with a 5-6 record and a 3.17 ERA (3.31 FIP). He's more of a polished pitcher whose best pitch is his changeup, though his fastball and slider are solid average pitches. He's a #3 starter type who relies on good command and keeping hitters off balance more than flat-out overpowering them. He's the safest arm in this bunch, though probably the one with the lowest ceiling.
They also have the inconsistent young pitchers I mentioned earlier, RHPs Mike Minor and Randall Delgado. Minor, 24, is having a rough year at 3-6 with a 6.14 ERA. Though his 33 walks to 70 strikeouts in 80.2 innings offer some promise, it's his whopping 18 HRs allowed that give cause for concern. Is there a fixable flaw there? Do the Cubs take a flyer on a former top prospect as they did with Chris Volstad? Minor's xFIP which normalizes HR rate is still a pedestrian 4.55, so it appears there is more to work on than just taming the gopher ball. Minor, however, has solid, if not overpowering stuff. He works with a 90-91 mph fastball (94 peak), a slider, curve (or is it just one slurve?), and a change, with the change being his best pitch. He has solid stuff and good pitchability, some think he has the profile of a #2 guy...but the results have been disastrous so far.
Randall Delgado, 22, throws harder than Minor, sitting at about 92-93 and able to reach the mid 90s. He also has a sharp breaking curve and a change up. He has struggled most with consistency on the curve this year and it has led to a 4-8 record with a 4.52 ERA (4.14 FIP). His control has been an issue, walking 4.64 batters per 9 innings while striking out a solid 7.26. Like Minor, he has a #2 ceiling but probably more of a #3 guy when all is said and done. He lacks Minor's athleticism and pitchability, but has better raw stuff.
Arodys Vizcaino, 21, was obtained from the Yankees in the deal that sent Javier Vazquez and throws harder than both Minor and Delgado, sitting at 93-95 and reaching 97 mph. He has a second plus pitch in his hard curveball and a solid change-up. Why would the Braves even consider giving up such a pitcher? Because he just had Tommy John Surgery, the second time in 3 years he has torn ligaments in his elbow. It seems to much of a risk for the Cubs, who have already had arm issues with top prospects Robert Whitenack, Ben Wells, Dillon Maples, and recent 4th round draft pick Josh Conway, not to mention nagging issues with Trey McNutt that have limited his pitch count. Can they really afford to add another member of the walking wounded, despite Vizcaino's great stuff?
Like the Dodgers, there's some intriguing arms but there's no sure thing here. The Braves, however, have pitchers with MLB experience that, with the exception of Vizcaino, can join the rotation this season. I also think teams are more willing to deal pitchers sometimes once they're actually out of the minors and it becomes more reality than dream and projection. Can the Cubs find a match with Atlanta on Garza, or maybe even Dempster? The pieces are there but it will depend on how much the Cubs like what the Braves have to offer and how willing Atlanta is to give up cost-controlled arms for another shot at the playoffs this season.