Yesterday Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation wrote he had a source that the Cubs were getting calls on Matt Garza -- and that they were listening.
I don't doubt this at all. Brett does good work and I'm quite sure his source is 100% accurate.
That being said, I don't believe for a second that the Cubs are going to trade Garza.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post has said he has a source that said, "it's very, very unlikely" that the Cubs trade their top pitcher. I don't believe this contradicts Brett's source at all. Here's why...
Garza has long been a coveted target of Epstein, he will turn 28 in a few days, and he has two years left of team control. Most importantly, he is one of the rarest of commodities. He is a front line starter under the age of 30. His won-loss record may not reflect that, but fielding independent statistics show Garza as a top 10 pitcher, top 5 in some cases in the NL. For example Garza ranked 5th in the NL and 7th overall in DIPS (ESPN's version of FIP) last season. In the NL that ranks only behind pitchers Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, and Madison Baumgarner, and ahead of pitchers like Matt Cain, Zach Greinke, Cole Hamels, Chris Carpenter, and Tim Lincecum.
It's doubtful the Cubs can get equal value for such a commodity and Theo Epstein is not in the business of moving backward when it comes to assets. In fact, it's quite the opposite, he wants to gain value.
In other words, if you want Matt Garza, Epstein is going to make you overpay to get him. That's the price of being a win-now team. If you're the Rangers then guys like Martin Perez (LHP) and Jurickson Profar (SS) can't be deemed untouchable. If you're the Yankees, you can't say a package that includes both Delin Betances (RHP) and Manny Banuelos (LHP) is out of the question. If you're the Red Sox, then I think you just don't have the pieces to get this done -- or at least, you certainly can't compete with the kind of package the other two teams can put together.
I'm not saying this is necessarily fair. I'm saying that the Cubs don't have to be fair. They are not a small market team. They can afford to pay Garza now and they'll be able to afford to pay him when he'll be a 30 year old free agent if they choose. They can also afford to lock him up to a long term deal and buy out a year of free agency. They are under no pressure or deadline to deal him. In fact, they don't have to deal him at all. And that puts them in the catbird seat.
Garza is a known commodity and an impact, front line starter. There's no guarantee that prospects like Perez, Betances, and Banuelos will be the same. All struggled mightily in AAA this past season. Taking them off the table is a non-starter. The Cubs also want to improve the team's athleticism and plate discipline. Profar would sure look good in that respect, and at a premium position to boot.
If I'm Epstein, I'm asking for the moon. By the same token, I don't expect any team to pay the price required to pry him loose.
If no team is willing to pay up, that's fine as well. The Cubs will still have a 28 year old front line starter and the resources to keep him when he's a free agent. The Cubs can realistically expect to contend by 2013-2014, and having a 29-30 year old ace certainly isn't going to hurt those chances at all.
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