The main off-season priority for the Cubs was to shed several albatross contracts and pave the way for highly touted young prospects to come up to the big league squad in 2011. GM Jim Hendry changed directions Friday, trading his entire minor league system for Tampa Rays right-hander Matt Garza, who has a career 42-44 record.

In his trade with Tampa, Hendry didn’t stop at 21-year-old right-hander Chris Archer (Cubs No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America), up-and-coming shortstop Hak-Ju Lee (No. 4 prospect), and 2010 minor league player of the year outfielder Branden Guyer (No. 10 prospect), instead sweetening the pot at the last minute by throwing in the Cubs entire minor league system.

“Matt Garza is kind of like a slightly better Randy Wells,” said Hendry. “Plus he has some post-season experience that will greatly help us when we go 72-90 this season.”

To fill the void in the Cubs minor league affiliates, which now consists of zero players to fill squads in places like Des Moines, Daytona, and Boise, the Cubs are giving second chances to several past minor league flameouts like Brooks Kieschnick, Ty Griffin, Lance Dickson, Brant Brown, Earl Cunningham and several others.

“We found Earl working at a car wash in South Carolina,” said Hendry of the Cubs 1989 first round draft pick who never reached the big leagues. “I realize he’s 40-years-old now and weighs a donut over 400 pounds, but he looks like he can still thump the ball. They’re going to love him back in Peoria.”

By Jeremy Barewin

Jeremy Barewin