Mike Olt: Taken late in the first round (49th overall) in 2010, Olt was the centerpiece of the Matt Garza trade’s package that was sent to the Cubs. His value as a prospect rose to its zenith in 2012 when his OPS ended at .977 and he made a futures game appearance.
Olt has now inherited the Cubs starting third base role and is off to a polarized start. Despite his low batting average (.179) Olt still has huge power (third in the NL with a home run every 11.9 AB’s), which makes him good for a .704 OPS. These numbers should rise as his batting average ascends toward his normal potential (or what we assume it to be).
Olt turns 26 later this year but I would wait to judge his Major League ability until he has received (the cliché) 750 plate appearances. Some players (think Chris Davis) are later bloomers than others and Olt is still only somewhat recently removed from serious eye-sight issues. I might expect Olt to settles somewhere in a .250/.350/.450 range which would make him an asset to most teams around the league.
C.J. Edwards: Edwards might end up being the player the Rangers miss the most in this trade. He was drafted very late (in the 48th round) in 2011 but has done nothing but dominate in the minors since.
In 42 career Minor League appearances (41 of which were starts) Edwards owns a 1.81 ERA, struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings, and has limited base runners very effectively (0.961 WHIP) too. Despite his slender build (listed at 155 lbs.) Edward throws hard and has solid secondary offering to complement his mid-90’s heat.
What’s more, Edwards has begun to translate that dominance to high upper minors with a strong start with the Cubs this year in double-A ball. He currently has a 2.61 ERA in 20.2 inning to go along with 20 K’s and just 14 hits allowed. He is currently on the disabled list but will, in all likelihood, continue to blaze his way toward the majors once he’s healthy again.
Justin Grimm: Grimm, like Neil Ramirez, was used as a starter in the Rangers system and came to the rescue early on in 2013 as a starter early in the year. He was named the Rangers’ rookie of the Month in fact in April 2013 because of his strong start. Unfortunately, the league caught up with Grimm and his ending ML numbers for 2013 wound up with a 6.37 ERA in 17 starts.
Regardless of his poor finish in the major last season, Grimm has earned a role in the Cubs bullpen (also like Ramirez) and is off to a decent start in his age 25 season. He actually got off to an exceptionally hot start with a 0.79 ERA through 13 appearances but has since given up 6 more runs to jack up his Earned Run Average to 3.38.
The Cubs certainly hope that Grimm’s performance will level out and that he can contribute consistency to the ‘pen. Some time down the road Grimm might also be given an extended look for the rotation given his ability and brief glimpses of dominance early on in Texas last year.
Neil Ramirez: Drafted all the way back in 2007 by the Rangers in the first round (44th pick) Ramirez is 24 now but turns 25 on May 25th. The Rangers projected Ramirez as a starter and he made almost all of his appearances with their affiliates in that role (127 of 134 appearances came as a starter in the Rangers system). The Cubs, however, have used the right-hander exclusively as a reliever in 2014 and he is now up with the big league team.
Despite poor numbers this year in AAA (6 ER in & innings to go along with a 1.71 WHIP) Ramirez has thrived thus far with the Cubs allowing just one earned run in 8.1 innings while striking out 13. He hasn’t been allowing baserunners either given his 0.84 WHIP to date.
Ramirez’s longterm role remains to be seen but for the time being he is playing well in the bullpen and giving the Cubs innings they need. Eventually the Cubs might transition him back to his former role as a starter but their rotation is filled out for the time being and there is no need to change what doesn’t need fixing given Neil’s current 1.08 ERA.
Verdict: Jon Daniels recently said that this trade might really haunt him and I do not think he is the only one. Three of the four players the Rangers sent to the Cubs are actively contributing already to the Major League team and the fourth has, probably, the highest ceiling of the group.
Meanwhile, Matt Garza failed to help the Rangers prevent their September tailspin and give them the push that everyone hoped he could to get the Rangers to the postseason. He finished with just 4 wins for the Rangers to go along with a pedestrian 4.38 ERA and is now long gone in Milwaukee.
Of all the trades the Rangers have made in the recent past I think this is the worst in retrospect. A contender often needs reinforcements around the deadline but Garza failed to reinforce anything and the cost was great in the Rangers case. The Rangers might do well to keep this trade in mind this summer should a team like the Rays ask for too much for a certain former Cy Young award winner (can you guess who?). One starter can make all the difference in a five or seven game postseason series (see Cliff Lee) but 10-14 regular season starts aren’t worth the prospects (see Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster) if the Rangers never even get there.