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Cubs improve, but the price is steep

The parameters of the deal that ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine reported have Matt Garza headed to the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Chris Archer, outfielder Brandon Guyer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and outfielder Sam Fuld. Minor league outfielder Fernando Perez will also head to Chicago with Garza.

Starting with the prospects, I love this trade for Tampa Bay. They got more for Garza than Kansas City did for Zack Greinke, although their package of players is, collectively, further away than what the Royals got. It looks to me like the Rays focused less on position and more on overall value.

Hak-Ju is the star of the deal for the Rays, a potential monster at shortstop who can run and throw and shows good feel for the strike zone. He performed very well as a 19-year-old in full-season ball and should remain at shortstop long-term because of his athleticism and feel for the position. He's a potential four-tool player who will probably top out with just average power. Even though he should be fairly big for a shortstop by the time he fills out, it's not a swing path that's going to generate a lot of long fly balls, but he should hit for average and get on base while adding value through baserunning and defense. He was my No. 1 prospect in the Cubs' system.

Archer was originally in the Cleveland system and went to the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa trade; at the time, he was all arm strength with little command, but has made huge strides in that area. He'll pitch at 93-95 mph and despite a high slot, he throws an above-average slider that has missed bats in the minor leagues. His changeup remains a fringe-average pitch but there's enough there to think he'll stick as a three-pitch starter, with the absolute worst-case scenario of an impact reliever if for some reason the command stops improving.

The remaining players are all interesting pieces, none good enough to headline a deal but all worthwhile as extra parts.

Guyer is a plus runner and defender in centerfield with good bat-to-ball skills but poor plate discipline. He mashed as a 24-year-old repeating Double-A, so he may be overrated on performance, but the tools are there for him to at least be a second-division regular because of the glove and speed.

Chirinos is a recent convert to catching -- 2010 was the first year he played nowhere but behind the dish -- and projects to stay behind the plate; his offense the past two years has been inflated by his age relative to league, but the standard at catcher is so low it seems hard to believe he can't be a starter for someone in the majors. Fuld is a fourth/fifth outfielder who is never going to hit like he did in 2009 again, but has value on the bench and as a late-game OBP weapon against a right-handed reliever.

For the Cubs, it's pretty clear the trade makes the team better. Garza isn't an ace, but he has ace stuff, and taking him from the AL East -- he has notoriously been a Boston killer -- and plugging him into the weaker NL Central should improve his numbers across the board. I've seen him hit 97 in the seventh inning, and seeing the NL version of 8-9 hitters won't lessen his chances to go deep into games. The Cubs' rotation becomes really heavy on right-handed power stuff, and is better set to compete with the other starting staffs in the division, with the perpetual mystery of Carlos Zambrano always a huge piece of that equation. But at least now, any implosion from Big Z won't completely compromise the season.

The other positive here is the chance for the Cubs to let young Andrew Cashner work out of the bullpen. If Cashner is in the pen, they could have a pretty unbelievable group of power arms, and could have a lot of six-inning games.

Cubs fans will enjoy what Garza can offer, but this came at a huge cost.

The other big winner here is the Music Man, Jeremy Hellickson, who now seems guaranteed a spot in the Tampa rotation. Once there, he could contend for rookie of the year, so don't weep for the Rays.