Breaking Down How the Matt Garza Trade Impacts the AL Race

Josh SchochAnalyst IIIJuly 22, 2013

Matt Garza is no longer for sale. The Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs have finally settled on a trade that will send the 29-year-old ace to Arlington.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the deal has been made official:

Source: #Cubs will acquire Triple A IF Mike Olt, Single A RHP C.J. Edwards and a third player from #Rangers for Garza.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 22, 2013

The Rangers have been after Garza for years, and now they finally have him in the rotation for what may be the long term, based on this tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale:

The #Rangers, who have sought #Cubs Matt Garza for 2 years, privately believe they can convince him to stay, as well, averting free agency.

— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 19, 2013

Now that the Rangers have acquired Garza, how is this going to impact the AL playoff race?

Let's take a look.


How It Affects the Rangers

Texas sits three games back of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West and 1.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the final wild-card spot.

The team has been led by its pitching staff, but the recent injury that sent Yu Darvish to the DL was a setback. However, with Garza's 6-1 record and 3.17 ERA, the Rangers will boast arguably the best starting rotation in MLB with Darvish, Garza, Derek Holland and Martin Perez all having ERAs no higher than 3.40.

The Rangers have improved themselves to the point where they are now clearly the better team than the Athletics, and they should be able to lock up a playoff spot as long as Oakland doesn't make a monumental move to match this one.

Essentially, this trade boils down to the Rangers securing a playoff spot in the AL West.


How It Affects Everyone Else

The AL has officially been put on notice now that the Texas Rangers are a legitimate World Series contender.

This move starts by shaking things up in the AL West, where the Athletics appear to have been dethroned and should fall out of first place soon. The Rangers have trailed them closely for months, and this huge trade should help them leapfrog Oakland.

The Rangers look like the favorite to win their division, and they are just as good as any team in the American League.

The team that poses the biggest threat to Texas is obviously the Boston Red Sox, who are 60-40 on the year and have the best record in the AL. The Red Sox are still without ace Clay Buchholz, whose performance after he returns from a serious injury could determine which one of these two teams plays in the Fall Classic.


Playoff Predictions

With the way things look now, the three division winners at the end of the year should be the Red Sox from the East, the Detroit Tigers or Cleveland Indians from the Central and the Rangers from the West.

The wild-card spots will likely go to Athletics and either the Baltimore Orioles or New York Yankees.

The way that the bracket sets up would favor a World Series matchup that features an American League representative of either Boston or Texas, which seems to be a guarantee at this point since both teams are playing so well and appear to be more talented than everyone else in the league.

Thanks to Texas' fantastic new rotation and Boston's tremendous offense, the two should meet in a clash of the titans in the ALCS.

When these two teams meet, the games will be decided by pitching, as is often the case in October.

With Darvish and Garza leading off the series, the Rangers should take an early lead, and using Holland and potentially one more pitcher will ensure that the Red Sox will be stymied throughout the series.

With the rosters looking the way they do now, the edge belongs to the Rangers, who should win the ALCS in seven games.

Unless the Red Sox or another AL contender makes a serious move to improve their club, or if injury strikes the Rangers, the Rangers are set up to make yet another World Series appearance.