Trade Analysis: Brigham to Cubs for Soto

The Texas Rangers made a change to their catching corps on Monday by acquiring backstop Geovany Soto from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Jake Brigham. Lone Star Dugout takes an in-depth look at the deal.

The Deal: The Texas Rangers acquired C Geovany Soto and cash considerations from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Jake Brigham and a player to be named later or cash.

Rangers Acquire: Geovany Soto, C

Position: Catcher
Date of Birth: January 20, 1983 (29)
Birthplace: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Height: 6'1" Weight: 218
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Drafted: 2001 – 11th round by Cubs

The Rangers have designated catcher Yorvit Torrealba for assignment, clearing room for Soto to become the club's backup to starting catcher Mike Napoli. The 34-year-old Torrealba, who was on the second season of a two-year contract, was hitting a disappointing .236/.302/.342––his lowest statistical output in seven years––in 49 games.

Torrealba is likely to be traded, claimed on waivers, or released. Either way, this press release quote from Rangers GM Jon Daniels signifies the end of Torrealba's career in Arlington: "...We also want to thank Yorvit for his work here over the past two seasons."

Perhaps the primary value for the 29-year-old Soto is that he's under team control for next season. The Puerto Rico native is currently making $4.3 million this year, and his final year of arbitration eligibility comes in 2013.

Regarded as a strong defender behind the dish, Soto has thrown out 14-of-51 (27.5 percent) attempted base stealers this season after getting 36-of-121 (29.8) in 2011. He's a career .252/.342/.445 hitter but has scuffled to the tune of a .199/.284/.347 slash line this year.

Soto was named the National League Rookie of the Year in '08 after hitting .285 with 35 doubles, 23 home runs, and 62 walks. Although his offensive production has been inconsistent since that year, he still batted .228/.310/.411 with 26 doubles and 17 round-trippers in '11.

Napoli, the Rangers' current starting catcher, is set to become a free agent after this season, and his extension talks with the club stalled around the start of spring training. Because the Texas system also lacks upper-level catching prospects, Soto provides insurance at backstop for 2013 if they're unable to bring Napoli back.

Cubs Acquire: Jake Brigham, RHP

Position: Pitcher
Date of Birth: February 10, 1988 (24)
Birthplace: Winter Garden, FL
Height: 6'3" Weight: 210
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Drafted: 2006 – 6th round by Rangers

The 24-year-old Brigham had pitched the entire 2012 season at Double-A Frisco––his second campaign with the RoughRiders. He'd posted a 4.28 earned-run average in 21 starts this year. Over 124 innings, he yielded 122 hits, walked 46, and struck out 116. The right-hander was tied for the Texas League lead in strikeouts at the time of the deal.

Since Brigham was selected as a sixth-round pick in the 2006 MLB Draft, he's gradually climbed the Rangers' organizational ladder while experiencing one major setback––he missed the entire 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

While Brigham's results haven't matched his pure stuff, he's remained a solid prospect because of the talent. The Florida native was Lone Star Dugout's #33 prospect in the Rangers' system last offseason. He also ranked at #33 after the 2010 campaign and was on pace to be in the same general area this coming offseason.

Brigham has flashed consistently strong stuff when starting in his two Double-A seasons. His fastball works between 90-95 mph, sitting comfortably in the 91-93 range. He has a plus 80-84 mph slider with late break and excellent tilt/depth. He'll also mix in an average curveball along with the occasional below-average changeup.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound hurler has a strong, mature frame, and he holds his velocity deep into starts. His fastball-slider combination gives him two plus offerings, and his 75-76 mph curveball is more than usable as a second breaking ball.

While Brigham could be a back-of-the-rotation starter (with a perfect-world #3 ceiling), his inconsistent fastball command and lack of a reliable changeup point to an eventual bullpen role––his most likely destination. He profiles as a hard-throwing middle reliever but has the pure stuff to work in a setup role.

When Brigham locates his fastball down in the strike zone, he's able to get a good downward plane from his 6-foot-3 frame with some late movement. But when he's up in the zone, his fastball straightens out and leaves him hittable––the primary factor behind his 19 home runs allowed in 21 starts this season. He did a much better job of keeping his fastball down during spring training and early in the regular season. As a result, he was less hittable, his walk rate shrunk, and his ground ball rate jumped. But he has been much more inconsistent over the last two months, giving up 70 hits and walking 30 over 61.1 innings.

Brigham has also shown an improved changeup at times this season, but it remains very inconsistent and an overall below-average pitch. He didn't throw a change during his final start in the Rangers' organization, when he tossed six shutout innings against San Antonio on July 28.

The Rangers moved Brigham to the Double-A bullpen in late June of last season. After struggling initially, he shined in the second half––38.1 ip, 30 h, 10 er (2.35 ERA), 20 bb, 45 k. Brigham's stuff also ticked up in the relief role. His fastball began sitting between 93-96 mph––touching up to 97––and his plus slider became a power pitch in the upper-80s with sharp, late tilt.

A 40-man roster member, Brigham was added last offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He now joins the Chicago Cubs' 40-man roster.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2006 AZL Rangers (RK) 2-6 58.1 54 19 58 3.70
2007 Spokane (SSA) 5-4 77.0 69 34 65 3.16
2008 DNP – Injured --- --- --- --- --- ---
2009 Hickory (A) 2-11 89.2 104 38 81 5.52
2010 Hickory (A) 6-5 83.0 66 24 67 3.36
Bakersfield (A+) 1-5 49.2 67 26 39 6.93
2011 Frisco (AA) 6-6 114.1 107 55 114 4.49
2012 Frisco (AA) 5-5 124.0 122 46 116 4.28

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