Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Look at the Young for Garza Trade

If the old adage is true that pitching wins championships, the Rays moved in the right direction on Wednesday. The Rays added a very talented pitcher in Matt Garza, who has the potential to be a good number 2 starter in this league, a good stop gap shortstop in Jason Bartlett, and maybe their future closer in Eduardo Morlan. It's always difficult to have to part with a player that posesses the potential that Delmon Young does, but the opportunity to upgrade the team in three different areas was too much to pass up.

There are mixed opinions on exactly how good Matt Garza will really be. Going into 2007, John Sickles had him ranked as the number 1 prospect in the Twins system and gave him an A- grade. In three minor league seasons he had a 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 10.04 K/9. He has dominated at every level in the minors and there is nothing to show that he won’t continue that trend in the future. He has not yet pitched a full year in the majors and was up and down when he did pitch, but you can see the talent is there. The Rays will also have control of Garza for the next five years. The addition of Garza to the rotation with Scott Kazmir and James Shields gives the Rays a great young starting rotation for years to come.

In Bartlett the Rays got a good stop-gap shortstop to plug into the lineup until Reid Brignac is ready to play in the majors. He has good range at short and is not the offensive liability that Cesar Izturis would have been. Bartlett is a much better option than the Rays currently had on the team, and the double play combination with Aki at second will be a nice help to the young pitchers on the mound.

The Rays were originally supposed to get veteran Juan Rincon in the deal, but when injury concerns came up the Twins offered relief pitcher Eduardo Morlan instead. Morlan was the Twins number 4 rated prospect by John Sickles and has outstanding numbers in the minor leagues. In four seasons he has an ERA of 2.82 and 11.06 K/9. Some Twins fans have compared him to how Joba Chamberlin has played in his bullpen role. He will most likely start the season in AA this year, but could rise very fast as he has the tools. The Rays may have found a closer for the future or at the very least a great set-up man to bolster the pen.

Delmon is a talented player, but maybe not as talented as he was once thought to be. He was heralded as the number 1 prospect in all of baseball, but his lack of plate discipline has stifled his offensive numbers. If Young could ever learn to have more discipline at the plate he could be a Manny or Vlad type player, but right now a better offensive comparison maybe Jeff Francouer. Defensively no one can deny his great arm, but he does lack great range in the outfield and takes some awkward angles.

Part of the reason the Rays were willing to deal Young may be due to his attitude problem with the organization. We all remember the end of last season when he blew up against Toronto and declared himself out for the last game of the season. Delmon also complained about playing center field when the Rays needed him to do so because BJ Upton and Rocco Baldelli were hurt. He went on record as saying he wanted out of Tampa the first chance he got, and it seems the Rays gave him his wish early.

The Rays dealt from a position of strength to address the major weaknesses on their team. They have a couple of different options on who to play in RF, and Rocco Baldelli is not one of them despite what many Rays’ fans think. The Rays have already said that they are “cautiously optimistic that he can be the DH,” which sounds like they have no intentions of him playing in the outfield and risking injury once again. If Elijah Dukes can stay clear of off the field issues he would most likely get the nod come opening day. He is a talented outfielder and given a full season I think he will out hit and out play Delmon Young in the outfield. Justin Ruggiano, who has been compared to Jason Bay, could also push for the spot in right field next year. He had a great season not only in Durham, but also in the AFL and for Team USA.

At the end of the day the Rays were able to address three areas of need with the trade and that fact made the deal to hard to pass up. Who won and lost this trade will depend on Delmon Young and that won’t be known until a couple years from now. Could the Rays have gotten more for Young? Maybe, but I do know that the overall team improved with this trade today.