A couple of days ago, Devon mentioned that the Rays could be interested in trading for Cubs catcher Geovany Soto. The type of trade makes sense because the Rays need a starting catcher and Soto has nice power and plays solid defense. His batting average has really varied over the past four years, from .285 to .215 to .280 to .228, but he makes hard contact when he connects, and if he could cut down on some strikeouts there’s no reason to think he couldn’t at least hit .250 consistently. A .250 batting average isn’t exactly the ideal, but it’s a lot better than the limited option that the Rays have right now. Considering the Rays need to trade a pitcher, either Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann, and the Cubs need pitching, the trade could be a simple one-for-one swap. Except for one problem: ex-Ray and current Cubs starter Matt Garza.
The Cubs currently are lined up to start 2012 with a rotation of Ryan Dempster, Garza, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad, and Travis Wood. Since they’re not contending, the Cubs would like a cost-efficient pitcher that they can control for a few years, a time period where the rest of the team should improve enough to make a run. Davis and Niemann both fit that profile. Davis is signed to a team-friendly contact with three cheap years remaining and then three option years, while Niemann just went through arbitration for the first time and will be under team control for the next three seasons although he will go through the arbitration process two more times. But if the Cubs acquire Davis or Niemann, suddenly they have too many pitchers. And that would cause them to immediately trade Garza, who is scheduled to be a free agent following the 2012 season.
If the Rays can engineer a Geovany Soto trade, they could also have some control of where Garza goes by making the trade a three-team deal. Considering Garza has been rumored to both the Red Sox and the Yankees, doing that could make things better for the Rays in multiple ways.
The Rays were prefer to steer Garza to a team in the National League, but with no clear option available, they would have to try to get the Detroit Tigers involved in a possible trade. The question is whether the Rays would want to do that. The Tigers are scary enough with Prince Fielder now in the fold, and Matt Garza would just make things worse for opposing teams. I don’t think the Rays would be scared about matching up with Garza in a postseason series, but he’s a quality pitcher and he’s coming off a career year, having posted a 3.32 ERA, a 9.0 K/9, a 2.6 BB/9, and a 0.6 HR/9 (2.95 FIP) in 31 starts and 198 innings pitched.
And then there’s the whole separate issue that Hardball Talk has discussed how the Tigers and Cubs are far apart in their own trade talks for Garza. The Cubs are looking for the Tigers’ top prospects, right-hander Jacob Turner and third baseman Nick Castellanos, in exchange for Garza, and the Tigers are reluctant to part with Turner, let alone add in Castellanos. In order to facilitate those talks, the Rays would likely have to trade more than they normally would, and probably entice the Tigers with a good prospect to make them do the Garza trade. So basically if the Rays do this trade, they’re paying an exchange fee to control how these Garza talks go. Is it even worth it?
From what it sounds like, the Tigers and Cubs are not about to execute a Garza trade. The Rays’ division rival Yankees have enough pitching now after acquiring Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda. And the Red Sox could be in no position to make the deal themselves, with the top of their farm system not exactly at its peak right now with most of their talent in the low minors. Maybe the Rays doing this would be overaggressive. So despite the fact that the Rays still need a catcher and Soto could fill that role, things are much more complicated than that and it may not be worth it.
Nevertheless, let’s see what that this type of trade would look like.
Tampa Bay Rays trade RHP Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs and SS Tim Beckham and RHP Alex Colome to the Detroit Tigers. Chicago Cubs trade C Geovany Soto to the Tampa Bay Rays and RHP Matt Garza to the Detroit Tigers. Detroit Tigers trade RHP Jacob Turner and 3B Nick Castellanos to the Chicago Cubs and C Rob Brantly to the Tampa Bay Rays.
I think the Cubs and Rays would be happy with this insane 3-team, 8 player blockbuster trade, but the question is whether Beckham and Colome would be enough motivation for the Tigers to part with Castellanos (they have Alex Avila entrenched at catcher and another top catcher prospect named James McCann, so they could definitely trade Brantly). If it would, then great, and everyone is happy. The Rays get their catcher of the present and a possible catcher of the future, the Cubs the top prospects they need to rebuild along with a cost-efficient pitcher in Wade Davis, and the Tigers get a top-notch pitcher to complete their nice rotation and also get a couple of prospects with some nice potential who aren’t too far away from the big leagues (although they both have their problems). But what if this isn’t enough?
If this last scenario wasn’t crazy enough, brace yourself for this one.
Tampa Bay Rays trade RHP Matt Garza and SS Tim Beckham to the Detroit Tigers for RHP Jacob Turner and 3B Nick Castellanos.
The Rays basically trade Wade Davis and some high-risk prospects for an incredible third base prospect who could instantly become their best prospect once Matt Moore loses rookie eligibility, a great pitching prospect, a catcher of the present, and a first baseman of the future.
Will anything even vaguely resembling either of these trades happen? Almost definitely not. The bottom line is that a Geovany Soto trade would be significantly more complicated than it seems at first glance. Don’t expect it to happen.