From more reports than I care to cite here, the Rangers made a trade today, acquiring Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for four players. Another way to say that would be the Rangers acquired Garza for four young players. Yet another way is the say the Rangers acquired Garza for four prospects.
The best way to say it, though, is that the Rangers traded Mike Olt, CJ Edwards, Justin Grimm, and a player to be named later for Garza. You might not say that, though, because you might not be familiar with the three names involved, or with who could be the fourth name.
If that description fits you, you're in luck, because this is all about those guys.
Mike Olt is the best known prospect in the deal, and for good reason. The third baseman was drafted in 2010 (a compensatory pick for Ivan Rodriguez signing elsewhere) out of Uconn, and has played the last season-plus in Frisco or Round Rock. Olt's calling cards are very, very sound defense at third base combined with above-average power and plate discipline. There was a significant split among how prospect ranking services viewed Olt; some, like Fangraphs, viewed Olt as a back-end of the Top 50 type, while some like MLB.com saw him in their Top 20.
Either way, Olt is a very good prospect, but a round peg for Texas' square hole. Much of Olt's value derives from playing a high-demand position, and playing it well defensively. Olt would likely never play third for the Rangers, given that Adrian Beltre is still somewhere on the back end of the prime of his (hopefully) Hall of Fame career. While his bat profiles well as a third baseman with good defense, it looks less enticing as a first basemen or corner outfielder.
There's also the question of age with Olt. He turns 25 in three weeks, and isn't likely to make a real impact in the Majors until next season (at best). That means his peak years are very close ahead of him, which takes another bit of shine off his prospect-ness.
CJ Edwards is the most intriguing name the Rangers are sending out. The young pitcher, drafted in the 48th round of the 2011 Draft, has logged 160.1 career innings over the last two seasons in the minors, with a 1.60 ERA, 207 strikeouts compared to 59 walks (3.5 K's per BB), and exactly zero home runs allowed. Pitchers that don't walk many, strike out a lot, and eliminate home runs tend to be named Cliff Lee.
However, there were also significant questions surrounding Edwards. He turns 22 in Spetember, and is likely at least three years away from entering the Majors- meaning he has the same age-arrival-peak issue that Olt presents. As well, Edwards is listed at 155 pounds while standing 6'2''. I can't readily think of a pitcher that lean succeeding in the Majors, let alone in the AL, let alone in Arlington. Given his age, there's also the question of whether his stuff will play at higher levels, or if he's simply a little older and a little more advanced than the batter 90 feet in front of him.
Justin Grimm's performance this year is a likely snapshot of what he would provide a team over his career; a back-of-the-rotation starter or long reliever. The downward trend he was on corresponds to popular scouting wisdom, that the league was adjusting to him rather than the other way around. He might have some success due to moving from an AL club with a hitter's ballpark to an NL club with a more balanced ballpark, but he's ultimately a replaceable talent.
The deal also includes a player to be named later. Per reports, the Cubs will have their choice of Neil Ramirez or a pair of other unknown prospects. Ramirez is a 2007 supplemental first rounder with good stuff, command issues and a likely future as a late-inning bullpen arm.
All in all, the trade does hurt, as each known part of the deal is a good baseball player with a chance to be a functional part of a major league team. If I had to, I'd say this deal is a more painful one than the deal that brought Cliff Lee here two seasons ago, as Olt and Smoak are comparable, but Edwards has a higher ceiling than Blake Beavan and Grimm is better than Josh Lueke.
That doesn't mean this is a bad deal; Garza is likely the best pitcher available (unless Yovanni Gallardo figures things out) this season and the Rangers were put an unenviable spot by all the injuries to their starting pitching staff. Garza was the Cubs' equivalent of Mark Teixera to the 2007 Rangers; their most valuable major league asset, the one they had to have a good return on.
Ultimately, the trade will be judged on the Rangers' late-season and post-season success or failure, and likely the development of Edwards. If I (or anyone for that matter) could tell you, for certain, how that would turn out, it would be waste of my (or anyone else's) prognostication abilities to be blogging, when they should be making the decisions instead of talking about them on the internet.
Joseph Ursery is a fan of CJ Edwards and wishes Rangers fans could have joined him in that club before it was just too late. Oh, well. You should follow him on Twitter at @thejoeursery.