Cubs Break From Recent History In Garza Deal

CHICAGO—Looking ahead to the next few seasons, the Cubs have taken a risk that could haunt them for 10 years, maybe more.

Under general manager Jim Hendry, they've generally been stingy in putting their top prospects into trades. Since trading Ricky Nolasco to the Marlins for Juan Pierre before the 2006 season, Hendry has generally filled his needs through free agency. But with limited payroll flexibility, he rolled the dice in unprecedented fashion on Jan. 8, sending righthander Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and three other prospects to the Rays for righthander Matt Garza, outfielder Fernando Perez and 22-year-old lefthander Zach Rosscup.

Archer was the Cubs' minor league pitcher of the year in 2010, after a season that ended with his dominating the Cuban national team for Team USA. Outfielder Brandon Guyer, who was included in the deal, was their minor league player of the year after a strong season in Double-A and then hit .348 this winter in 19 Venezuelan League games. Lee, a shortstop with speed and strong fielding skills, is more highly regarded than either Archer or Guyer by some scouts.

"You don't go shopping at Walmart when you're looking for a 20-game winner or a .300 hitter," one American League coach said about the trade. "Guys like (Garza) don't grow on trees."

Hendry knows he's taking a risk with the trade, which also included catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Sam Fuld. He said he wouldn't have made the deal if Garza wasn't under the Cubs' control for three seasons and he didn't feel good about the inventory of talent still in the system.

"We feel we still have four or five real quality starter prospects," Hendry said. "The names change every year. Chris certainly moved up the ladder to become our top prospect this year."

Hendry is counting on the continued development of shortstop Starlin Castro and a stable of pitching prospects led by righthanders Chris Carpenter, Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman and Trey McNutt.


• The Cubs claimed catcher Max Ramirez on waivers from the Red Sox, who had previously claimed him from the Rangers. He'll go to camp and compete alongside veteran Koyie Hill and 23-year-old Welington Castillo for the backup catcher spot. Castillo did not help his case by hitting .193 in 27 games for Licey this winter in the Dominican Republic.

• Righthander Austin Bibens-Dirkx, signed as a minor league free agent out of the independent Golden League midway through the 2009 season, was 2-2, 1.60 in seven starts for Zulia in Venezeula this winter. He held hitters to a .203 average.