Should Cubs extend Garza and funnel resources toward pitching?

One thing that’s been curious to me lately is the sudden silence on any possible Matt Garza trade rumors.  Heading into the winter meetings, it was a huge topic…and now, nothing.

Now comes word from both Paul Sullivan of the Tribune and Patrick Mooney of Comcast, that Garza may, in fact, be in line for an extension.

All along I've believed it would take a monster deal to pry Garza loose and that teams wouldn’t be willing to give up the package of prospects required to obtain him.  For the Cubs, there was only one reason to even consider trading him – and that would be to kick start a farm system with multiple top prospects and/or young team controlled players.  The Cubs don’t need to deal Garza from a financial standpoint.  They can afford to pay him now and they can afford to extend him later.  This is a big market team.

Moreover, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have talked over and over again how they’d like to build around pitching.  Epstein went so far as to call Garza, “exactly the kind of player we want to build around”

Now that part is interesting.  If the Cubs are going to keep Garza and build around him, wouldn’t that mean going after pitchers his age or younger so that they can start that building process?  They certainly aren’t going to build around him with aging veterans like Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano, both of whom have at most one year remaining with the team.

Andrew Cashner would certainly qualify as that kind of building block pitcher.  Trey McNutt may as well.  It could also mean potentially switching a young, hard throwing pitcher like Jeff Samardzija to a starter.  He never had the command to succeed in that role before, but perhaps his breakthrough last season warrants him getting a second chance.  Or maybe the Cubs will give a pitcher like Chris Rusin an extended look this spring.

It could also mean trying to acquire young pitchers from outside the organization, though trading for someone like Gio Gonzalez may prove difficult considering the lack of depth the Cubs possess at the upper levels of their farm system.

But might it mean a more aggressive bid to land Yu Darvish?  Or perhaps they’ll look into the much-improved 28 year old RHP Edwin Jackson.  Do they take a chance and wait until next year when it’s possible Matt Cain or Cole Hamels will be available? Maybe, but that will get expensive.  But considering how much money is coming off the books next year, particulary in the rotation, that may not be that big an issue.  We’ll get back to that in a bit.

If they want to save money in the short term, the Cubs could take a flyer on a pitcher like Chris Volstad, who has the talent of a #3 starter but was nearly non-tendered last night.  A source of mine claims the Cubs do indeed have some interest in the tall right-hander.  Volstad may be an option you don’t have to spend a fortune on your staff.  And he's only 25, so he hasn't yet entered his peak performance years.  Predictive statistics like xFIP indicate that Volstad was on the verge of breaking out last season had it not been for some bad luck.

But to reiterate, the Cubs do have money.  So rather than commit the money to Prince Fielder, perhaps the Cubs should use that money to extend Garza and then sign a big free agent next year.  Maybe Cole Hamels  if he’s out there.

Then you open up 2013 with a rotation of Garza, Hamels, Volstad, Cashner, and Rusin.  Or perhaps someone like Trey McNutt or Jeff Samardzija steps up and fits in there instead.  Everybody is 28 or younger and under team control.

Or if you really want to dream big, how about signing Darvish (or Jackson as a fallback) with the money potentially earmarked for Fielder this year, and then sign Hamels with the money freed up when Zambrano and Dempster’s contracts expire next season.  The Cubs would have Garza, Hamels, Darvish (or Jackson) as their top 3.  They could then fill the last two spots with some combination of Cashner, McNutt, Volstad, and Rusin.

It’s hard to believe that a pitching staff like that, backed by a vastly improved defense, couldn’t contend in 2013 -- even with a mediocre offense.

I wouldn't say a Garza deal is dead yet, but any deal would have to push the Cubs closer to their goal of building a stronger, younger, deeper team.  And if you can't get the kind of return that would do that, then it may just be better to keep Garza and extend him for a few more seasons.  If that's their ultimate decision, then they'll have to take advantage of that opportunity and build around him quickly with good, young pitchers while he’s still in his prime.

Filed under: Cubs Rumors, Pitching


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  • One has to figure that without Garza, and how you characterize Dempster, and Z probably being gone, the Cubs would have no starting pitching. They sure than bleep didn't have much of any in 2011. So, at least keep one. It isn't like the Sox, which theoretically have five starters, even without Buehrle (although I don't know how good of trade bait Danks and Floyd are).

    If one is only talking about trading for prospects, the Cubs can probably get some for Z if they eat a considerable chunk of payroll, which they now appear willing to do.

  • In reply to jack:

    It's possible that the Cubs may keep someone like Dempster on a much smaller deal, but I think it's more likely they rebuild the staff with younger arms.

  • I agree with you. Theo should wait a month, or so, to see whos
    left on the pitcher market. Then its either trade Garza or sign
    him to a 4-5 year deal.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    The key for me is a big return on Garza. If you don't get it, extend him and build around him.

  • on the topic of volstad, i think there is definitely a deal out there for us.

    i know that you've said many times that zambrano has negative trade value, but one of the teams that definitely values him is the marlins. miami also happens to not value volstad very highly so doesnt it make sense for us to swap the two. maybe we'll throw in a c-rated prospect along with 12-15 mil to cover Z's contract.


    looks pretty good to me if im miami.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    That would make some sense. Volstad is a borderline NT so that's the kind of player we can expect to get back...provided we pick up a big chunk of his contract, of course.

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    Nice article. Offered alot of new ideas towards potential pitching help in 2012 and beyond. The jury is still out on Volstad. His 3 years of major league time doesn't impress me at all. I do like Edwin Jackson and his numbers, but I've always been curious, Why has he switched to so many teams? Cashner, Samardzija, Rusin, McNutt, etc. are all "potential" starters. I'm sure Theo and staff will take a hard look at each of them. Most I'm sure will get a shot during Spring Training and then we'll see.

  • In reply to Danny Guerra:

    Thanks. You could talk about other pitchers too if not these specific guys. It's the general concept that's most important to me. As for Volstad, the jury is definitely still out. But I guess if it weren't, he wouldn't be available. Not for cheap anyway.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    One pitcher that I feel would fit nicely at the back end of the rotation for the Cubs would be Joe Saunders. Would 2 years at 12-15 mil be too much for a 3rd, 4th, 5th starter? It's Theo's call.

  • In reply to Danny Guerra:

    That's too much for Saunders, imo. Capuano money should be max

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Saunders did make 5.5 mil last year and had a career year.

  • In reply to Danny Guerra:

    True, but metrics will tell you he's overpaid and if the D'Backs felt he was in line for a raise, they would have tendered him. I'd be surprised if he got a lot more than that next year. To me, that would be an overpayment...but that's my opinion. Cubs or another team may think differently.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He's a good innings eater, but there really isn't much else too him. Low strikeouts, high walks, get's hit up a ton. I'd be fine giving him 4-5M but anything higher is a little much.

  • In reply to furiousjeff:

    Not a whole lot, but the Cubs could use an innings eater. There may be a bit of a bidding war because of his ability to keep teams in games and pitch 200 innings, so until I see the price tags out there, I'm cautious on him. If we get him on a team-friendly deal than I'm perfectly okay. It's not like we have a whole lot better!

  • John
    What do you think a Garza extension would (you like to see) look like? Perhaps less money on his 2 arb years in return for a couple more years of guaranteed money? 3, 4, 5 years?

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Something like that. Give him a little extra in short term, then buy out first 2 years of free agency.

  • I think the Yu Darvish bidding is putting Garza talks on hold. When that is resolved, rumors will fly again.
    All GM's should just come out and say "All players are always available" so we don't have to pick apart every quote from the front offices.

  • In reply to Norm:

    Impetus for article was two connected writers suggesting Garza in line for extension, not quote. Other names still being talked about despite Darvish bid...i.e Danks, not sure that's it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That didn't come out right...I don't remember what I was trying to say now :)

  • In reply to Norm:

    LOL...happens to me all the time ;)

    I don't think a potential Garza deal is dead, but I'm thinking maybe that Cubs weren't happy with what was being offered. So if you aren't getting the kind of package you want, then the next best thing is to extend him and build around him. That's not to say a team won't come back later and say..."okay, we'll give you such and such package of players" and the deal gets done.

    I guess I'm just exploring the possibility of keeping him in the absence of that happening.

  • Not only is Garza the best pitcher on the staff, but probably the best teammate. He's always on the edge of the dugout cheering while the rest of the team sat back on the benches counting their money.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    He's really matured. Another reason to hang on to him ...unless there's a Greinke package being offered.

  • John ... this is just me ... but the dollars and unknowns in Darvish scare me half to death ... then add in the "character" factor. And the Matt Murton comment is also worthy of note.

    I agree with clarkaddison on Garza as a team mate and locker room presence. His "anger" is directed at himself - not his teammates. Norm commented on Darvish holding up Garza. While I agree - that, to me, is absurd. Garza is a proven ML commodity ... that said, I'm in your corner on the Greinke-like return. Otherwise lock him up!!!

    One of the things that keeps coming back to me is this: E/H have 2012 (at least) to find out about guys like Shark and Wells ... and the development of Rusin, McNutt and a few others. With ALL the money getting dumped at the end of next year and what "looks" to be a bumper crop of pitchers - who will command LARGE dollars, home grown talent becomes even more important.

    EJax would be a definite innings eater - but the Boras thing hangs like a cloud of stink over him.

    Volstad in trade for Z - if E/H think there's value there, find a way and get 'er done. If that move can't get done, Saunders for Capuano money works for me.

    Castro can be addressed next year.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    I've been very adamant about a big return for Garza. It's a wasted opportunity if you trade him for anything less than 3-4 good major league ready players. If you have to throw another player in the way KC did, that's fine...but the main thing is you get 4 good young players back that fit into your plan. In that sense, I think Oakland lost an opportunity with Cahill. they didn't do badly, but they could have done better. They're not dealing from the Cubs position, though.

    Darvish, I'm okay with leaving out of the equation. In fact, I'm okay with changing the names. I understand some won't like Darvish or Jackson or Volstad...that's all good. But I think if you can't trade Garza, you get good young arms in that mold to fit around him.

    I like the Volstad for Z idea. Obviously it can't happen straight up, but you can build around that and figure out the $$ aspects or whether the teams expand the deal in some way.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed on getting good young arms to fit around him ... and would PREFER they come cost controlled AND from within.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:


  • The problem with waiting for Cain and Hamels is they're both with large market teams. I don't see the Giants or Phils letting them get away. I'd like to see the Cubs lock-up Garza and sign Jackson and Chen. I think the cost for Darvish is going to get crazy and I don't want any part of $100M+ posting/contract for a guy who's yet to throw a pitch in MLB.

  • In reply to Zorb:

    That's very true..and there's also no guarantee they become FAs to begin with... but as I mentioned above, you can put other names into that equation. You'll have more money and a better idea where you stand next year. If a couple guys pan out,whether it's someone you acquire this year or someone from the farm system breaks out, maybe you don't even need to spend that big next year on pitchers.

  • Make with the Starlin Castro extension, Jed.

  • Agreed!

  • I may be the last one on a dying thread again, but here goes.

    John: You did not mention Randy Wells. Moneyboy did. I am curious what you think of him. I persist in thinking he could be a valuable chip. He had bad luck with the injury last year and has yet to show consistency. As a conversion, he is young in pitching years (so to speak) and has had flashes of, if not brilliance, something more than the number 5 he might be counted as.

    The key phrase is "could be." The Cubs have a bunch of them at or near the major league level. I think Samardzija should be given a shot - it will make him happy and he "could be" valuable. And Cashner "could be" a very good starter - though I think he will end up back in the pen, "could be" a closer. Every year there is another "could be" or two in the minors - Archer was, then McNutt, maybe Rusin, or... or...

  • In reply to bruno14:

    Hey opinion of Wells is that he's a bottom of the rotation guy on an average team. That's probably different from your own opinion. I see him as a guy who had a good share of luck his first year, some regression to the mean in his second, and then his 3rd year just wasn't very good. I think he can be something like he was in his second year, perhaps a bit better with better defense and average luck. I don't see him having many years like his rookie year, however. He may still be useful, but he's not a guy I'm factoring in to the equation for the future. But hey...I could be wrong. If he turns out to be that pitcher he was his rookie season, I'll be a happy guy to say the least.

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