|The Royals established the market for a front-line starter when they traded Zack Greinke to the Brewers for four young players, including two power pitchers and a starting-caliber shortstop and center fielder. Tampa Bay followed that blueprint when they traded 27-year-old righthander Matt Garza and two mid-level prospects to the Cubs for five young players, including Chicago’s No. 1 prospect, 22-year-old righty Chris Archer, as well as its top up-and-coming middle infielder, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee.
While Garza isn’t a former Cy Young Award winner like Greinke, he’s no slouch. He completed a no-hitter in July and has three seasons left before he qualifies for free agency. As an added bonus, the hard-throwing righty is playoff tested and sports a 3.48 ERA in five postseason starts, complete with 29 strikeouts in 31 innings.
Naturally, the Rays heard from many potential suitors for Garza before they accepted the Cubs’ offer. Archer and Lee offer significant future upside potential, but Tampa Bay also was intrigued by the offensive ability of corner outfielder Brandon Guyer and catcher Robinson Chirinos, both of whom spent most of last season in Double-A, and ace defensive center fielder Sam Fuld.
|Chris Archer, rhp
Born: Sept. 26, 1988 in Raleigh, N.C.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Clayton (N.C.) HS.
Career Transactions: Selected by Indians in fifth round of 2006 draft; signed July 9, 2006 … Traded by Indians with RHP Jeff Stevens and LHP John Gaub to Cubs for 2B Mark DeRosa, Dec. 31, 2008.
Archer recently ranked as the Cubs’ No. 1 prospect. Subscribers read in detail about his progression from a disappointing fifth-round pick in the Indians system (out of a North Carolina high school in 2007) to one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues in 2010. Acquired by the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa trade, Archer still has some command issues but improved them significantly in 2010, when he went 15-3, 2.34 overall. He has two plus pitches in a fastball that can sit anywhere from 92-97 mph and a slider that gives him a strikeout weapon. Some scouts have given the fastball and slider 70 grades on the 20-80 scale. Archer’s arm action is clean, and he improved with his changeup, which has average potential, throughout the season. His best start of the year may have come in October, when he beat Cuba in the Pan Am Qualifier while pitching for USA Baseball, as he struck out 10 in six shutout innings.
|Hak-Ju Lee, ss
Age: 20. Position: SS (118 G).
Born: Nov. 4, 1990 in Jeonju, South Korea.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Bats: L. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Cubs, March 29, 2008.
Lee ranked as the Cubs’ No. 4 prospect and joins big leaguer Reid Brignac in giving Tampa Bay two rare commodities—lefthanded-hitting shortstops. Lee will need time if he’s to join Brignac on the big league roster. While he had a rough showing in the 2010 Futures Game, Lee has the tools to become an above-average shortstop defensively, with plenty of range and good actions. His arm strength is the biggest concerns, as some scouts consider it fringe-average, due to his tendency to often flip throws to first rather than cutting loose. He lacks power at the plate but makes consistent contact, draws walks and is a plus-plus runner. The Korean national has leadoff-hitter potential and likely signals a shift long-term to third base for Tampa Bay’s 2008 No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham.
|Brandon Guyer, rf/lf
Age: 24. Position: RF (51 G), LF (42 G), CF (15 G).
Born: Jan. 28, 1986 in Charlottesville, Va.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 210. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Cubs in fifth round of 2007 draft; signed June 22, 2007.
The Cubs saw Guyer and big leaguer Darwin Barney the weekend before the 2007 draft in the same NCAA regional and wound up drafting both. While Barney has become a proficient defender at the upper levels, Guyer became a trade chip with a big 2010 season and was the organization’s minor league player of the year. He’s a strong athlete with plus speed, righthanded power and the defensive skills to play all three outfield spots. If he becomes a bit more selective he could fit in Tampa’s right-field picture sooner than later, but his aggressiveness is an asset for him on the bases and in the field.
|Robinson Chirinos, c
Age: 26. Position: C (85 G).
Born: June 5, 1984 in Punto Fijo, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Cubs, July 2, 2000 … Granted free agency, Nov. 3, 2008; re-signed by Cubs, Jan. 11, 2009.
Though we pegged him as a good option, Chirinos passed through the Rule 5 draft in 2009, and he responded with his best pro season in 2010, earning a spot on the 40-man roster. He has a chance to be an excellent utility player as a converted infielder who has become a good defensive catcher. He threw out 30 percent of basestealers with Double-A Tennessee this year, posting 1.95-2.05 second pop times, and is good enough defensively to contribute at that position in the majors in 2011. His speed is his only below-average tool, and his plate discipline helps his average power come out in games.
|Sam Fuld, cf
Age: 29. Position: CF (113 G), LF (8 G).
Born: Nov. 20, 1981 in Durham, N.H.
Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 180. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Career Transactions: Selected by Cubs in 10th round of 2004 draft; signed July 9, 2004.
Fuld, a Durham, N.H., native, started for four years at Stanford, playing three years beside current White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin. He had a stellar four-year Cardinal career, becoming the all-time College World Series hits leader (a record since broken by Dustin Ackley). Fuld’s value as a professional comes from his average speed, strong instincts and above-average defense in center field. He’s also a lefty bat who knows the value of drawing walks and making contact, but he offers little power. He’s a better fit as an extra outfielder than Fernando Perez, whom he was traded for. And like Perez, Fuld has no minor league options remaining this season, meaning he’ll have to pass through waivers to head back to Triple-A.
|Matt Garza, rhp
Age: 27. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2011-13 seasons ($3.35 million salary in ’10).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
|Fernando Perez, of
Age: 27. Position: RF (43 G), LF (42 G), CF (33 G).
Born: April 23, 1983 in Elizabeth, N.J.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Devil Rays in seventh round of 2004 draft; signed June 16, 2004.
Perez raced home on a shallow sacrifice fly to score the deciding run in Tampa Bay’s 11-inning, 9-8 win versus the Red Sox in the second game of the 2008 AL Championship Series. That mad dash still rates as his career highlight in the big leagues. Perez has hit .234/.301/.351 in 94 at-bats for the Rays during cups of coffee in 2008 and ’09. He missed most of the latter season after having surgery to repair a dislocated left wrist, and then following the season he had surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder. Perez took up switch-hitting upon turning pro, but he gave up batting lefthanded when he returned to action last season. He appeared rusty, however, in batting .235/.275/.373 against lefties, whom he had hit hard up to that point in his career. Perez has no minor league options remaining, so he’ll have to clear waivers to be sent back to Triple-A, but some scouts believe he’s qualified for a backup role right now. Perez is at least a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale with above-average range at all three outfield posts. Against lefty pitchers, he has enough power to keep defenses honest, and he’s also a strong bunter and basestealer (223 swipes in the minors at a 75 percent success rate).
|Zach Rosscup, lhp
Born: June 9, 1988 in Clackamas, Ore.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Bats: R. Throws: L.
School: Chemeketa (Ore.) CC.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rays in 28th round of 2009 draft; signed June 22, 2009.
Rosscup is another contribution to the Rays organization by area scout Paul Kirsch, whom the organization appears to trust a great deal. Scouts in the Pacific Northwest joke that Kirsch always seems to get a player taken in the first five or six rounds, and this year the Rays went Kirsch’s way for three picks in the first three rounds in outfielders Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson and second baseman Ryan Brett. Rosscup is a physical 6-foot-2, 205-pound lefthander notable for solid athletic ability and a projectable fastball in the upper 80s that scrapes the low 90s. He also throws a curveball and changeup and has impressed more for his ability to throw consistent strikes at this stage than for his pure stuff.