These days, just about every major trade the Rays make is geared towards the future. The Matt Garza trade in January of 2011 was no exception as the Rays traded away one of their top starting pitchers in Garza in exchange for several prospects with the ability to play big roles for the Rays in the future: shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, right-hander Chris Archer, outfielder Brandon Guyer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, and major league outfielder Sam Fuld. Everyone but Lee has always appeared in the big leagues for the Rays, but Lee may in fact be the best of the bunch in the long-term. The interesting part of the trade was that Garza was not the only thing the Rays gave up to acquire those players- they also traded away outfielder Fernando Perez and left-hander Zach Rosscup. Perez was a forgettable fourth outfielder type who made major league appearances for the Rays in 2008 and 2009 but is already out of baseball. But Rosscup was the type of player the Rays like, a lefty with impressive raw ability including a fastball with untapped velocity and secondary pitches that has shown flashes. How much will the Rays regret the one time they traded the type of upside player they are constantly trading for themselves?
Rosscup, 24, was the Rays’ 24th round pick in 2009 out Chemeketa Community College in Oregon as a 6’2″, 205 left-hander. He has done nothing but pitch well so far in the minor leagues, going 12-8 with a 2.77 ERA, an 8.9 K/9, a 2.9 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9 in 27 starts, 21 relief appearances, and 165.1 IP. Since getting traded to the Cubs, Rosscup has gone 6-3 with a 2.89 ERA, a 10.6 K/9, a 4.2 BB/9, and a 0.6 HR/9, but in just 10 starts, 16 appearances, and 81 innings pitched primarily at High-A and Double-A, missing quite a bit of time with various arm injuries. Rosscup pounds the strike zone with a fastball around 90-91 MPH, and he complements it with a solid curveball and changeup that stand out most because of Rosscup’s ability to throw them for strikes. Rosscup’s control was inconsistent when he first came back from injury in 2012 before he settled down and got right back on track to close out the season. Rosscup’s high strikeout totals are more because he was just throwing strike after strike until the hitter finally took a called strike three as opposed to overpowering hitters. His high strikeout totals seem unlikely to persist if his stuff does not get up to par. The Cubs hope that Rosscup might be able to add more velocity if they can smooth out his arm action, which should also help him stay on the field, and they hope to refine Rosscup’s secondary pitches to add more impressive break to help him miss more bats. Rosscup still has some upside, but he’ll be 25 in June and looks to be more of a middle relief type than the solid mid-rotation starter it once looked like he had the ability to be.
Sure, the Rays can’t get enough upside. But that only goes within reason. Rosscup has some potential, but not nearly as much as the players the Rays acquired for him and Garza. If the Cubs are lucky, they may get a solid major league player out of Rosscup, but he’s not going to be the type of player the Rays will regret trading no matter what happens to the players they acquired in the trade. They were happy to give the Cubs a lottery ticket with a slim chance to be a winner in exchange for several players who were much better bets to contribute to their ballclub, and possibly in significant ways. Rosscup is an interesting footnote in Rays history as an upside player who the Rays traded. But at the end of the day, even trading Rosscup was in the interest of upside as the players he was acquired for have as much potential as anyone the Rays have in their organization right now.