Cubs Strengthen Organizational Depth with Garza Deal

The Matt Garza sweepstakes finally ended on Monday, with the Texas Rangers emerging victorious in their long pursuit of the Chicago Cubs veteran hurler. In return for the 29-year-old right-hander, Chicago obtained three young players — third baseman Mike Olt, as well as pitchers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards — and one or two players to be named later (depending on who the first PTBNL is).

The return for Garza — a free agent at the end of the season — is solid, although there is no sure-fire A-Grade prospect in the haul. The top player is Olt, whose value is down in 2013 thanks to massive strikeout rates in Triple-A and vision problems that could be related to a concussion he suffered in 2012. Prior to the 2013 season, though, his value was at an all-time high. I ranked him as the second best prospect in the Rangers system behind fellow infielder Jurickson Profar, and 47th overall on the Top 100 prospects list — the third highest ranked third base prospect behind Minnesota’s Miguel Sano and Washington’s Anthony Rendon (who is currently playing second base).

Olt just missed the recent mid-2013 Top 50 prospects list based on his recent struggles and the questions that have haunted him since last year when I suggested he was being overrated after slugging 28 home runs in Double-A. Even before the injury he appeared to be a future low-average hitter whose main strengths would be his power and above average glove at the hot corner. In other words, he’s not a complete player, or a five-tool talent.

Olt wasn’t a great fit in the Rangers’ system because he was blocked by perennial gold glove winner Adrian Beltre and the organization considered moving him to right field or first base where his defensive skills would mostly go to waste. The Cubs system will certainly welcome him with open arms, despite the presence of multiple young infielders. Former first rounder Josh Vitters is more or less a bust although he’s still young at 23, and current third baseman Luis Valbuena, 27, has had an inconsistent season and career. Another former Rangers prospect, Christian Villanueva, is currently playing at Double-A.

The biggest threats to Olt’s future may be current shortstop Javier Baez, who may eventual outgrow his current position, and 2013 first rounder Kris Bryant, a fellow third baseman. Olt, though, has a decent head start on both players. The Puerto Rico native still has a lot of work to do on refining his aggressive (but powerful) approach at the plate. Bryant, who possesses even better raw power than Olt or Baez, is ] about a year away from being Major League ready and could shift to the outfield to eventually replace veteran Alfonso Soriano, whose massive eight-year contract comes to an end after the 2014 season.

Grimm, 24, has spent the majority of the season in the Rangers’ starting rotation during his rookie campaign. I ranked the right-hander ninth on the Rangers’ pre-season Top 15 prospects list and noted his potential to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter. The ceiling remains despite posting a 6.37 ERA (4.25 xFIP) and allowing 116 hits in 89 innings of work. Despite his struggles, the prospect is expected to learn from his mistakes. As one prospect evaluator stated to me in the off-season, Grimm “continues to always look at ways to improve and get better.”

The third known prospect in the deal is Edwards, who narrowly missed the Top 15 list and would have landed 19th had the ranking been expanded to include 20 prospects. A great find by the Rangers scouting department, the right-hander was selected in the 48th round of the 2011 amateur draft. His 2013 numbers have been eye popping with 122 strikeouts and a large number of ground-ball outs in 93.1 innings. The concern with Edwards, though, is that he has a slender frame despite standing 6-foot-2 and his lack of projection on his changeup hints at a future bullpen role. He could develop into a high-leverage reliever thanks to his mid-to-low-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball. Despite the questions, I would probably rate him among the Cubs’ Top 10 prospects.

The players to be named later are expected to be chosen from a group of pitchers. Had I been building the deal with Texas, I would have coveted two infielders in Luis Sardinas or Rougned Odor. With that said, the Cubs front office did a nice job of addressing organizational need while shedding half a season of a solid veteran pitcher during a rebuilding year. While this trade may not return any stars, it’s a nice collection of valuable pieces for a player the Cubs weren’t going to keep.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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cable fixer
8 years ago

Nice write-up, Marc. I remember your Olt write-up and you deserve praise for it.

8 years ago
Reply to  cable fixer

Love the moniker.

I think Marc is selling Olt short. Not every player is going to be a 5-tool guy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have real big league value. I’d comp Olt to Mark Trumbo/Todd Frazier; with likely less power than Trumbo and defense than Frazier. That’s a pretty decent value proposition…for the next 5+ seasons of team control.

The problem is his injury issue this year has folks suspect. Since he came back on 5/31, he’s hitting .253/.345/.513 with 11 HR in 170ABs — other than AVG, thats a decent line. Paired with plus defense, I’d say the Cubs may have gotten their 3B of the future for rental player.

8 years ago
Reply to  Rainmaker

I’d say by now there are far more players in Marc’s camp than yours on Olt. I was really high on him based on everybody’s rankings until I saw him at the Future’s Game last year and was shocked at his lack of bat speed. Olt is not Trumbo or Frazier. He is a good defensive 3B who is truly a platoon only bat. Actually, if they could manage to get something for Vitters, a platoon with Valbuena for a few years would be decent value. But you are simply wrong that he is a full time regular.