When the Chicago Cubs were desperate for pitching during the off-season, they dangled a boat load of prospects to Tampa Bay for Matt Garza, the imposing right hander (6-4, 215) who could add stability to their weirdly dysfunctional starting four. The Rays were all ears: they were in the midst of losing star-to-be Carl Crawford to Boston and needed to build for the future. This was a typical North Side Drama Queen move — trading the future (including Chris Archer, their best young pitching prospect) for a mediocre present. It’s not that Matt Garza is a bad pitcher (he’s not), it’s just that he’s not going to keep the Cubs from falling through the floor. Which. Is. Where. They’re. Headed.
Parting with Garza was something the Rays were going to have to do, but for the Cubs the price was steep. There was Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, a faster-than-a-speeding-bullet shortstop who wasn’t going to be in Chicago anytime soon, as well as almost ready outfielder Brandon Guyer and infielder Robinson Chirinos. That’s a hell of a haul, but not enough for the Rays, who were going to give up some youngsters of their own, including outfielder Fernando Perez and mystery pitcher Zach Rosscup, a kid with a lively arm. The Rays might have sealed this deal, but they wanted midget outfielder Sam Fuld in addition to what they were getting, and the Cubs agreed. While the powers-that-be later headlined the trade as “Garza for Fuld plus prospects,” Fuld was actually a throw in — a nice defensive outfield addition for those days that Manny Ramirez decided he wanted to do something else.
So here we are in April, Manny Ramirez is in Spain, Matt Garza is struggling in Chicago, Perez is hitting .235 in Triple-A Iowa and “throw in” Sam Fuld is hitting .321 and flashing his leather for the Rays in the outfield. Last night, in the pure hell that has become Fenway Park, Fuld was 4-6, scored three, plated three RBIs and made a diving catch in the fifth inning on a line-drive off the bat of Dustin “our Lord and Savior” Pedroia. It was quite a night for the New Hampshire native (30 family members were in the stands to see him), who grew up watching the Red Sox on television. Fuld was thrilled: “I think I had a little more adrenalin tonight, just playing in this park that I grew up going to,” he said after the Rays notched a 16-5 victory.
Fuld is scrappy and a great defensive addition to the Rays; and you never know, he might actually do some hitting. He was always an afterthought in Chicago, where he barely laid his bat on the ball. But he got some attention, primarily because of his all-out attitude. Fuld was never rated a top prospect by Baseball America, or really latched on to by the Cubs front office, and his size (he’s an exaggerated 5-10) worked against him. No one in the Cubs organization was sorry to see him go — he just couldn’t hit, just like that other no-name the Cubs traded, some fifty years ago now. What was his name?