When Jim Hendry traded for Matt Garza in 2011, he did so thinking that the addition of a playoff-tested arm would be what finally got the Chicago Cubs past the NLDS, perhaps even to a World Series. The Tampa Bay Rays, meanwhile, were simply doing what they did best. They were trading an ace pitcher at his maximum trade value, and building a constant flow of young talent for years to come.
In return for Garza (as well as Zac Rosscup and Fernando Perez), the Rays recieved Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer, Hak-Ju Lee, and Chris Archer. The Cubs, of course, never would compete with Garza, and Hendry would be fired later that year. So what exactly would we have seen with Chris Archer and the Chicago Cubs?
How Far Along Has Chris Archer Come?
Archer, 25, seems to be the heir apparent to David Price, and appears to be on his way to stardom, similar to Price and James Shields. Archer was only in AA when he was dealt, but even then, there were flashes of brilliance. In his last year with the organization, Archer went 8-2, with a 1.80 ERA, and 8.61 strikeouts per 9 innings.
The deal, which was heralded at the time, was something of a flop for the Cubs. Deals like this depleted the already thin farm system (headlined by Trey McNutt and Brett Jackson). One could say that the best thing Matt Garza did in Chicago was get traded to the Texas Rangers for a similarly-sized haul.
Is Trading Prospects for Proven Players Too Risky?
What this deal proved more than anything, is that trading top prospects for “proven” veterans in a risky proposition. Over the course of Cubs history, the Cubs have tried to trade prospects for veterans, to somewhat disastrous results. In 1964, the Cubs traded a slow-moving prospect to the St. Louis Cardinals for former 18-game winner, Ernie Broglio. That prospect? It was future HOFer, Lou Brock.
Broglio would struggle in his time with the Cubs, retiring just two years later. Since the Epstein/Hoyer takeover, the Cubs have used the Rays system to rebuild a broken farm system. By signing players to team-friendly deals, and flipping them at the deadline, the Cubs have gotten some of the future cornerstones of the franchise. They managed to flip Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger for Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta.
History Has a Way of Repeating Itself
Chris Archer has the potential to be a Cy Young, maybe not this year or next, but, following his current trajectory, a Cy Young may not be too far. As for the other members of that deal, Neither Lee nor Guyer has seen much success, and Chirinos is still a little raw yet.
Cubs history is full of what-ifs and near misses, and it may not be long until we can add Chris Archer to that list. Archer pitched against the Cubs over the weekend, going 6 innings, giving up five hits and one earned run. The Archer deal may be the legacy of the Hendry era with the Cubs, an era marked by short-sighted deals, and brief moments of excellence on the field.
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