The cost of Garza

Rumors are swirling that the Rays and Cubs are finishing a deal to send starter Matt Garza to Chicago. In return, the Rays will supposedly get prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer and Robinson Chirinos.

Last month, about 70% of Tedquarters readers said they would not trade Wilmer Flores and Jenrry Mejia to get Garza. I countered that I might, since both players appear so far off from contributing to the Major League team and Garza is a durable if unspectacular starter under team control though arbitration for several years.

Obviously we have no way of knowing how the Rays value the Mets’ and Cubs’ prospects, but as a point of comparison: John Sickels gave Archer a B+ and Lee a B in his most recent overview of the Cubs’ system. He gave Flores a B+ and Mejia a B.

Archer, like Mejia, is a hard-throwing right-hander who has had success up to — but not beyond — Double-A. Archer is a year older than Mejia, but his status as a prospect benefits from the fact that he was never in the hands of Jerry Manuel. Unrushed, he was able to stay in Minor League rotations for 142 1/3 innings in High A and Double-A. Mejia threw 81 1/3 across five levels (including rehab stints).

For what it’s worth, Mejia had a much better reputation as a prospect than Archer did coming into the 2010 season, before the ill-fated eighth-inning-guy experiment. But Archer’s stature grew thanks to an excellent season.

Lee, like Flores, is a young shortstop who played in A-ball this season. Other than that, they don’t have a ton in common. Scouting reports say Lee is a plus (or even “special”) defender, while few experts believe Flores has any shot of sticking at shortstop. Flores projects to hit for a lot more power, but Lee has shown a lot more discipline in the low Minors.

Still, by Sickels’ admittedly shorthand rating system, Archer/Lee and Flores/Mejia is basically a wash. But since both Flores and Mejia have spent time on both Baseball America‘s and Keith Law’s Top 100 prospects lists in the past, let’s say the Mets pair would have slightly more trade value, if only based on their reputations.

But then on top of Archer and Lee, the Cubs traded Guyer and Chirinos, two players that likely enticed the Rays. Sickels had them at B- and C+ grades, respectively, but both enjoyed success in the high Minors in 2010. Chirinos, a 26-year-old righty-hitting infielder-turned-catcher, appears ready to at least backup to John Jaso behind the plate after a .999 OPS across Double-A and Triple-A in 2010.

I’m not sure there are great comps for either in the Mets’ system. But using sweeping strokes at players of similar caliber, let’s say the Mets could have landed Garza for Mejia, Flores, Sean Ratliff and Dillon Gee (not that the Rays need starting pitching, but whatever). Would you make that deal?

I’d say no. Not because I’m convinced any of those guys will ever produce as much in the Majors as Garza will in the next few seasons, but because it’s simply too much bulk to give up from an already thin system. The Mets, as I’ve been saying for years now, need dudes. Cost-controlled, contributing, non-star dudes. And the best way to get those is to develop them, and the best way to successfully develop players is to hang on to as many as possible, knowing that most won’t pan out.

What am I doing wrong? Is there more comparable package of Mets’ prospects than the one I created? Would you trade that package for Garza?

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