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Rays Trade Matt Garza to Cubs

As expected, the fire sale continued on Friday for the Tampa Bay Rays.  In an offseason where the Red Sox have made enormous strides and the Yankees are essentially the same team that won a championship two seasons ago, Tampa Bay has all but given up on contending in the AL East.  The Rays fell further behind for the immediate future on Friday when they agreed to trade ace Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for a package of minor league prospects.  If you recall, Garza tossed a no-hitter back in July and finished the 2010 season 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA.

Tampa Bay has already let Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena walk and closer Rafael Soriano won’t be returning either.  They traded shortstop Jason Barlett — who had become a fan favorite amongst the handful of loyal Rays fans — to the Padres.  Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton remain with the team, but we can only wonder how long it will be before the Rays start fielding trade offers for the two young studs.

The bottom line is the Rays have become a franchise that needs to either change locations or accept their position as perennial bottom-feeders in the AL East.  Sure, a three-year span where their prospects have an impact and are still under team control could arise again, but unless they find a way to fill the stands they’ll never be able to sustain a talented roster.  Pending a few more trades before the season begins, Tampa Bay will likely revert to the form we grew used to before 2008 came along.

Carlos Quentin, Matt Garza Reportedly on the Trade Block

The Winter Meetings in Orlando have ended but that doesn’t mean the trades and signings have been finalized. Cliff Lee still has to sign a deal, Zack Greinke may be traded, and guys like Adrian Beltre, Derrek Lee, and Adam LaRoche are still out there. There are two other names that reportedly are available in trades and both to me can be difference-makers: Carlos Quentin and Matt Garza.

CARLOS QUENTIN, OF, WHITE SOX, 2nd YEAR ARBITRATION

Is he available? The Chicago Sun-Times says he is, Kenny Williams says not really.

Why would the White Sox trade him? They signed Adam Dunn and re-signed Paul Konerko so they have power in the lineup. They need bullpen help and can’t afford to spend more money on free agents, so moving Quentin to get help is an option. He’s also set for a raise entering his second year of arbitration.

Why should my team go after him? Though he’s a career .251 hitter, he has plenty of true power and was an MVP candidate in 2008. You can’t find his pop too many places so he’s worth a gamble that the batting average will improve.

MATT GARZA, SP, RAYS, 2nd YEAR ARBITRATION

Is He Available? Multiple reports said he was being shopped by the Rays at the Winter Meetings and that he still is being shopped.

Why would the Rays trade him? They’ve lost Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena and their only truly reliable bat is Evan Longoria, so they could use some offensive help. On the other hand, they have a surplus of pitching including David Price, Jeff Neimann, Wade Davis, James Shields, and Jeremy Hellickson, so they can afford to deal from a position of strength to fix a weakness.

Why should my team go after him? He’s thrown back-to-back 200+ inning seasons and you know what you can expect from him. He’s reliable, a good strikeout pitcher, and he’s proven he can pitch in the playoffs. Most other teams would want to lock him up, not deal him, so he’ll be a nice addition for a team. He’s also under club control through the 2013 season.

Tigers Injuries Assisted in No-Hitter

This season in baseball has already been termed the “Year of the Pitcher” for excellent reason. Edwin Jackson and Ubaldo Jimenez both have thrown no-hitters, Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden tossed perfect games, and Armando Galarraga had a 28 out perfect game. Matt Garza joined the party by no-hitting the Tigers on Monday night, becoming the fifth pitcher of the season to complete the task. While I do not want to diminish Garza’s accomplishment, I would like to point out that several recent injuries to the Detroit Tigers offense eased Garza’s burden.

In the span of a week, the Tigers lost third baseman Brandon Inge, right fielder Magglio Ordonez, and second baseman Carlos Guillen to injuries. Inge broken his hand getting hit by a pitch last Monday, Ordonez broken his ankle sliding into home on Saturday, and Guillen strained his calf on Saturday. The Tigers still had triple crown contender Miguel Cabrera batting cleanup on Monday, rookie of the Year candidate Brennan Boesch batting fifth, Johnny Damon hitting third, and Austin Jackson leading off, but the lineup was certainly less challenging than when healthy. The Tigers had a rookie without a hit in his career in the lineup, as well as three other hitters batting .206 or worse.

Matt Garza is an above average pitcher with good stuff who threw six scoreless innings two starts prior to the no-hitter. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball in April and he helped pitch the Rays to the World Series in 2008. He’s always had the type of stuff to throw a no-hitter, but there’s no doubt that the recent injuries in Detroit resulted in the Tigers running out a weakened lineup. Rather than this being a commentary on Garza’s outing, maybe this is more of an indication of how the final two months of the season will go for the injury-depleted Tigers.

Photo Credit: AP/Mike Carlson