The Cubs completed their fourth trade in the past three weeks, and in a callback to the 2012 deadline, Chicago traded its top veteran starter to the Rangers for a package of prospects. This time they dealt 29-year-old Matt Garza, who logged a 3.45 ERA and 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in three years with the Cubs, to Texas for Triple-A third baseman Mike Olt, righthanders Justin Grimm (a Rangers rookie) and C.J. Edwards (in the midst of a breakout season at low Class A) and a player to be named.
The Cubs and Rangers appeared to be close to a deal last Friday, July 19, but the trade hit a snag after the players involved had their physicals. The first wave of trade rumors indicated that Rangers Double-A righthander Neil Ramirez would be included in the deal for Garza, but even though Ramirez wasn’t included in the July 22 transaction, he could be included later as a PTBN.
Update: The Cubs officially acquired righthander Neil Ramirez as the player to be named on Aug. 23.
A year ago, the Cubs added third baseman Christian Villanueva and righty Kyle Hendricks when they dealt Ryan Dempster to the Rangers.
Mike Olt, 3b
Age: 24 Bats: R
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in supplemental first round (49th overall) of 2010 draft; signed June 18, 2010.
Don’t read too much into Olt’s overall batting line at Triple-A. He entered the season ranked as the No. 22 prospect in the game, but after struggling out of the gate with vision problems, he redeemed himself by batting .247/.353/.506 with 10 homers in 158 at-bats since returning to Round Rock on June 3. Strikeouts will be a permanent fixture of Olt’s game, but that will be an acceptable tradeoff for his plus power production. He led the Texas League in home runs (28) and slugging (.579) in 2012, but he’s more than just a one-trick pony. Scouts rave about his agility, sure-handedness and arm strength at third base, and he forces pitchers to throw him strikes with a disciplined hitting approach—his strikeout-to-walk ratio was about 2-to-1 since June. Olt represents a good buy-low option for the Cubs, and his acquisition could directly influence the futures of Kris Bryant (2103) and Javier Baez (2011), two of the organization’s recent first-round picks.
Justin Grimm, rhp
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in fifth round of 2010 draft; signed Aug. 16, 2010.
One of three rookies in the Rangers rotation at the time of the trade, along with Nick Tepesch/Ross Wolf and Martin Perez, Grimm had fallen on hard times of late, running up an 11.91 ERA over his past three starts while allowing 23 hits in 11 1/3 innings. Grimm’s fastball sits at 91-92 mph and must be located down because he doesn’t have much life on the pitch or deception in his delivery. He throws a sharp, high-70s curveball as his primary out-pitch, though his changeup and slider have made strides and project as average. Grimm competes and throws strikes, with many scouts seeing him as a mid-rotation arm. The Cubs can afford to throttle back the pressure and, if they so choose, allow their new acquisition to sort out his repertoire in Triple-A for a few weeks.
C.J. Edwards, rhp
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in 48th round of 2011 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2011.
A 48th-round pick in 2011, Edwards may be the best scouting and player-development story in the minors. Little-scouted in high school, he thrived under professional tutelage, rapidly streamlining his delivery and adding velocity during his 2012 debut in short-season ball, where he ranked among the top 10 prospects in both the Arizona and Northwest leagues. Edwards sits in the low- to mid-90s and imparts a natural cutting action on the ball due to the unique nature of his finger position and arm slot. At the time of the trade, he led the South Atlantic League in ERA (1.83) and strikeouts (122) while not allowing a home run in 18 starts, which is more impressive than it sounds given Hickory’s home park. Edwards must continue to stay on top of a solid breaking ball and fringy changeup, but his athleticism and aptitude argue well for continued refinement.
Neil Ramirez, rhp
Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in supplemental first round (44th overall) of 2007 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2007
Texas League managers deemed Ramirez to have the best changeup in the league this season. He hides the ball well and sells the mid-80s change with deceptive arm speed, and the pitch is made all the more effective because Ramirez tops out at 96 mph. His power slider also acts as a plus pitch at times, with the only thing holding him back is a lack of control. That and a hard-to-repeat arm swing might spell a career in the bullpen, but he could excel in a relief role.
Matt Garza, rhp
Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $10.25 million salary owed for 2013.
The Rangers must feel like the cost in prospects is justified by the fact that they now can match up with any playoff rotation with a top three of Garza, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. Garza’s acquisition also makes Texas less-reliant on full returns to health for injured starters Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Colby Lewis—though if any one of them returns they would round out a playoff rotation quite nicely. For his part, Garza has pitched as well as he ever has this season, and by acquiring him on July 22—10 days before the deadline—the Rangers may be able to squeeze an extra two starts out of him.