The Chicago Cubs are trying to cut back on their payroll in these rough economic times. As a result, they weren’t able to go out and bid on any of the top free agents over the offseason.

The free agent additions of Carlos Pena and Kerry Wood were good improvements, but the biggest offseason move by the Cubs was their trade for Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Matt Garza.

Garza is 42-44 with six complete games a 3.97 ERA in 121 major league outings (118 as a starting pitcher) with the Twins and the Rays. But those numbers aren’t really indicative of his talent or potential.

“I think he’s one of the top ten pitchers in baseball, I really do,” former player and current MLB Network analyst,¬†Harold Reynolds said on the Mully and Hanley Show. “When you look back at what Tampa has done: making that run to the World Series and then being as competitive as they were in the American League East as quick as they were. It was when they got Matt Garza in that trade from the [Minnesota] Twins, things changed. And he changed that pitching staff.”

LISTEN: Harold Reynolds On The Mully And Hanley Show

Based on what they gave up, the Cubs clearly agree with Reynolds’ evaluation of Garza. Right-hander Chris Archer and 20-year-old shortstop Hak-Ju Lee were among the Cubs’ top prospects that were sent to Tampa along with catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielders Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer.

But the return for the Cubs could be worth the value they had to give up. Working in Garza’s favor is the fact that he’ll move from arguably the best division in baseball (AL East) to the NL Central.

“This guy is a gamer,” Reynolds said of Garza. “Every fifth day just give him the baseball. And he’s not just going to go out there and throw. He’s prepared. He has good stuff. And I think coming from the American League makes him even better. He’s a true No. 1, I think it will really show up this year.”

Notes: The Cubs also received Fernando Perez and left-hander Zachary Rosscup in the trade. Perez spent part of two seasons in the majors with the Rays (2008-09) and is career .234 hitter with good speed and base stealing ability. He spent last season at Triple-A.

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