Trading Garza is far from a guarantee to bring back top MLB talent

So I've gone back and forth on the Matt Garza thing.  For the most part, I'd like to trade him for prospects and build for 3 years down the road, but as I've made abundantly clear, I have no desire to trade him for anything less than a package of top prospects.  The Cubs can afford to keep him and he's still young.  Any trade of Garza has to make the team better down the road.

That got me thinking a little bit.  How have other recent trades for top pitchers worked out for the team receiving prospects?  I didn't want to go back too far because I wanted to catch the more recent trend with trade value.  I also didn't want to look at trades that were too recent, since the verdict hasn't been out on the most recent trades. I decided to look at trades that were essentially top SPs in exchange for prospects between the years of 2008 and 2010.   I remembered as many as I could: Erik Bedard, CC Sabathia, Rich Harden, Javier Vazquez, Jake Peavy...Cliff Lee 3 times and, of course, Roy Halladay.  This is not a scientific evaluation, so much as taking a quick glance at the kind of prospects teams received in return and their impact with their new team.  If I missed any recent trades, please feel free to add them in the comments section.

Here is a quick summary of trades involving those players in no particular order...

Cliff Lee I (Indians)

To Phillies for: Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson

Cliff Lee II (Phillies)

To Seattle for: Phillip Aumont, Jason Ramirez, Tyson Gillies

Cliff Lee III (Mariners)

To Texas for: Justin Smoak, Blake Beaven, Josh Lueke, Matt Lawson

CC Sabathia (Indians)

To Milwaukee for: Matt Laporta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson

Rich Harden (Athletics)

To Cubs for: Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, Josh Donaldson

Javier Vazquez (Braves)

To Yankees for: Michael Dunn, (Melky Cabrera), Arodys Vizcaino

Jake Peavy (Padres)

To White Sox for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Dexter Carter, Adam Russell

Roy Halladay (Blue Jays)

To Phillies for Travis D’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace

Roy Oswalt (Astros)

To Phillies for Anthony Gose, JA Happ, Jonathan Villar

Erik Bedard (Orioles)

To Mariners for Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio,Tony Butler

Few of the players acquired for the top starters have made the majors, but none of the prospects mentioned here have made a particularly big impact yet.  Carlos Carrasco was 8-9 with a  4.62 ERA and showed some promise but he has gotten hurt.  Justin Smoak hit .234 wth 15 HRs and was, for all intents and purposes, a replacement level player last season.  Matt Laporta and Brett Wallace were even worse, finishing the year at below replacement level.  Drabek struggled with his command and finished with a 6.06 ERA.  JA Happ had a promising start, but has since battled injuries and his performance has also dropped.  He went 6-15 with a 5.36 ERA last year.  Clayton Richard put up some good numbers but he also got hurt last season.  Blake Beaven had a decent rookie year with a 4.26 ERA but doesn't have a particularly high ceiling.  Donald and Marson are basically backups at the MLB level.  Michael Brantley was decent. He hit .266 with 7 HRs, but there's not a single player on this list you can call MLB average or better.  The one exception in all of these trades is Adam Jones, who's a good player but not a superstar.

What about the prospects?  There are some good ones out there.  Anthony Gose is a good prospect, though he's no longer on the team that traded for him. That team, the Astros, now has the aforementioned Brett Wallace instead.  Travis D'Arnaud is still with Toronto and is considered one of the best 25 prospects in baseball.  Aroidys Vizcaino is a top 50 pitching prospect with the Braves.  Villar is the 4th rated prospect in a weak Houston system.  Most of the others have been disappointing.  Aumont is the Phillies 5th rated prospect but he is now a bullpen arm.

They're all good prospects, but we won't know yet for sure if they'll be good MLB players.  Judging from the rest of this list, the odds appear to be against that happening.

The point is that while it's exciting to get a package of top prospects, the likelihood that any of the players will be nearly as good as the player you are trading are slim at best.  Sometimes you get lucky, as the Orioles did with Adam Jones, but for the most part these teams were worse off for having traded their front line pitcher.

I understand why the Cubs would trade Garza, but it is by no means anything close to a guarantee that the Cubs will be better off from a talent standpoint.  It's more likely that they'll be worse off.  If they make a trade, they better get top shelf talent back to minimize the risk as much as possible.  If not, you keep him. And that seems like exactly the strategy what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have taken with any potential Garza trade.  But even if the Cubs do trade Garza for a package of top prospects, recent history shows that the Cubs will probably still wind up on the losing end when it comes to talent.


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  • I seem to be in the minority, but this is why I preferred Cespedes to Soler. Bird in the hand sort of thing. Kind of like blackjack - you always have to assume the hole card's a 10, I always assume a prospect won't make it till they do, since a lot more haven't made it than have.

    I think they've got it right - ask for the moon now, since you know most prospects aren't going to pan out. You can lessen your requirements as your years of control diminish. Or you can try to get young MLB talent at the trade deadline when teams in the playoff hunt are desperate to fill a hole.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    It's certainly a case of minimizing risk and to that end, the Cubs would prefer to get talent that's as close to the majors as possible. They may even sub a young player over a prospect. I think the Braves trade here is one of the few successful deals. They were able to get Cabrera (whom they have since traded but has become a regular) and Vizcaino, who has good potential at the top end of a rotation.

    When I talked earlier about a possible Garza trade, one of the scenarios included Rick Porcello. That would give you a young arm who's guaranteed to me a major leaguer. Maybe that's the best route to take.

  • Can we trade him back for what we had? Lol... I mean, do you think Hak Ju Lee will pan out? He was the one guy I hated to lose from that.

    At least it's not Hendry making the trade. He did even worse than above in unloading Maddux, Lilly, Derrek Lee, etc. Wow.

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    The crazy thing is that as sharp as Friedman is, only Hak Ju Lee looks like a guy who is going to be a starter - and opinion is a little mixed as to how good a starter he will be. Law seems to be the most optimistic on him.

    Even Tampa may not make out as well and they got plenty of near MLB ready prospects. The trade looks like one that will mostly add depth.

    And agreed. All of those Hendry deals look like busts right now -- that's the danger when you settle for less than top prospects, I guess. Cubs have to do a lot better before they even think about trading Garza.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Optimism is an understatement. KLaw would like to make sweet, sweet love to Hak Ju.

  • In reply to Eddie:


  • In reply to John Arguello:

    To be fair to Hendry, all those midseason trades for maddux, Lilly, DLee Fukudome, etc.... were all players with one year on their contract and clearly just rent-a-players. That's the part of any potential trade is missing. I'd like to see how many years each of those traded pitchers had on their contract at the time because it really does make a big difference. Value isn't determined simply by how good a player is but rather has to take into consideration, the terms of their contract and if they are cost-controlled, arbitration eligible etc... I agree with the premise of your post that the Cubs can't settle for anything less than the best, but we'll see how desperate other teams will get for Garza down the line.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    That's a good point but what GMs value changes over the years. Cost control has become a big trend this year, to the point of overkill, imo, which seems to b the case with any trend. Some teams willing to pay more for lesser talent for an extra year of control. It's nice to get value and control, but if your goal is to win, you need to maximize talent at some point.

  • As time has gone on , I've moved squarely into the "extend him" camp. The reason is that despite the significant system turnover we've seen this offseason, we still are lacking any top-of-the-rotation SP talent that is close in the pipeline. Granted, we'd get some pitching talent back in a deal but , as you pointed out, they'd certainly not be locks to produce at a premier level. As we all know, if we're going to be consistently good, we need at least 2 guys consistently performing at Garza's level. I just don't see where those type of guys are in our system right now. Garza is still young and amenable to staying. Why not keep the " bird in the hand", particularly , when you consider his trade value goes down every day he gets closer to FA?

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I'm beginning to lean that way as well, especially since no team is offering anything worthwhile. We talked about Tampa above and how they traded Garza --but we aren't them, we can afford to keep that bird in the hand.

  • Count me in as still in the "trade him" camp. Yes, there is much to be said about having a front line pitcher, but that is offset if a team is in a rebuilding mode, which the Cubs surely are right now . When a team is rebuilding you trade the player who can get you the most in return and right now that's Garza by a long shot. The only thing less necessary when you are rebuilding is a closer, why keep a front line closer when your not contending? If the Tigers or Blue Jays come to the Cubs and offer a legit good deal, the Cubs should take it in a hearbeat.

  • Steve , I hear you on the "trade him" front but I'm guessing a deal would've been done if TOR or DET were willing to pay the price.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    True, but I would wait until the early summer to sign an extension if I were the Cubs . By June, the Cubs (and if they are not competitive) should have a better idea if any team is really serious about trading for Garza. If the Cubs don't get any real offers, then I would sign Garza to an extension.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I agree with that plan.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree with this plan as well, since by then we will have an even better idea of positional need, eg if Stewart pans out, if LaHair can make the necessary adjustments, and so on.

    On the other hand, in-season trades generally net poorer returns off-season trades, so it may be actually harder to get the desired value for Garza.

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    I was already leaning extension, but after reading this, I'm firmly there. If the Cubs are going to move Garza, it has to be for top prospects. He can't be just given away. No one is untouchable, but a front of the rotation starting pitcher is about as close as you can get.

    I'm confident that Garza won't be just given away, and I'm more confident that keeping him will actually make the rebuild go faster, especially given the constraints of the new CBA.

    I'm against spending frivilously on free agents like was done in the past, but free agents can be part of the plan, and because of the new CBA, they'll have to be. I believe this front office will do so when it makes sense, and they will do so wisely.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    That's the confidence I have as well, that Theo won't just give Garza away. He understands his value as well as any GM out there and it seems like teams want to use the cost control issue as an excuse to give up second and third tier prospects. No chance should you make that kind of deal.

    As far as FAs go, that will come when time is right. I can see them going for a guy like Anibal Sanchez next year if the price is reasonable.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think that time will come next winter. It's rare when you have so many front line starters, in their prime, hit the market at the same time, and impossible to imagine the Cubs not signing at least one, and possibly two, of them.

    Cole Hamels, if he hits the market, will be the premiere free agent, and teams are likely to get stupid crazy, but Matt Cain and Anibal Sanchez are likely to be acquired more reasonably, and the Cubs could afford both of them. Imagine how the addition of one or both of them to Garza could change the Cubs' fortunes in both the short and long term.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I think if you find a good, cheap 4th and 5th starter this year (i.e. Wood, Volstad), you're in good shape to make a FA signing. If you keep Garza, then that leaves you with just having to upgrade on Dempster and/or Maholm.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Cain, Garza, Sanchez, Wood and Volstad could make a very impressive rotation.

  • Mike, you bring up a good point about FA. Clearly , if this team is going to be competitive, anytime soon , they're going to need to dip their toes into FA for SP. Why not take the inherent discount of buying out Garza's remaining arb years and extending him. Assuming Garza continues to perform at current levels, what does he get in FA after the '13 season? I'm guessing a lot more than we can get him for now on a 4-5 yr deal. We have a glaring lack of impact SP in the organization. It makes sense to play it safe with the one "sure thing" we have , in that regard.

  • In reply to Carl9730:


    Echoing Carl's logic above about buying out Garza's arb years, what do you think it will take to get the job done on a 4-5 year deal? Will it be much more per season than he is making now? Also, even if Garza is locked up, he's already making decent money now through arb, and if he produces, will make even more in arb next year. And if he's tradable now, isn't it reasonable that he would be tradable even if T/J locked him up for 4-5 years under a favorable contract? That is of course, assuming that No Trade Clauses won't be given out like candy a’ la Hendry...

  • True, you can't find a Sandberg very day. I will have to trust my
    scouts in trading a know player for many prospects, but I would
    still do it.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It's not even about finding a Sandberg. It's about just finding a decent long term starting caliber prospect. Even that hasn't been the case with the deals above.

  • The most important question is, do the Cubs become relevant as a playoff team quicker if they keep Garza for his remaining two seasons or if they trade him for the prospects?

    The post makes a good point about the odds of prospects becoming star players. However for a rebuilding team with lots of holes to fill, prospects have heightened value. Maybe the Cubs could get a Rizzo-esque prospect for second or third base, or catcher, or any of the giant gaping holes in the Cubs lineup. This is obviously not a team built to win in the next two years, and our minor league system has recently been ranked as low as 20th in baseball by the Stathead Blogosphere. The Cubs need to rebuild their farm system. They do not have stars in the pipeline to make them a playoff team in the near future. It’s rebuilding time and Garza is their best chance to convert short term assets into long term ones.

    Furthermore, the Cubs would be trading Garza at his peak value. To hold onto him for two more years and hope that he continues his atypical success is Hendry-esque in its short sightedness. And even if Garza continues to pitch about as well as in 2011, it does not bring the Cubs closer to relevance as he’ll be gone before the Cubs are a World Series caliber franchise.

    Lastly, I feel that Cubs fans have an inflated view of Garza’s worth because last year he was his only great season. His previous three seasons were not nearly so great, not even close to what one associates with a number one starter on a good team. According to FanGraphs, here are Garza’s wins-above-replacement (WAR) rankings over the last four years as compared to all other MLB pitchers:

    2011: Garza was the 13th best starting pitcher last year with a WAR of 5.
    2010: Garza was the 81st best starting pitcher with a WAR of 1.6—lower than Dempster, Volstad, Maholm and (OMG) Randy Wells.
    2009: Garza was the 44th best starting pitcher with a WAR of 3.0
    2008: Garza was the 44th best starting pitcher with a WAR of 2.9

    It is possible that Garza, at age 28, took a big leap forward last season and will continue his success going forward. But it’s also very possible that he will regress. It’s hard to argue that he is a legitimate ace pitcher because his track record doesn’t back it up.

    The Cubs should trade him while his value is at its peak and rebuild for the future.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I don't agree with the assumption that re-building and Matt Garza should be mutually exclusive. You can do both and perhaps you should. It's certainly better than settling for a sub-par package just for the sake of "re-building" or impressing Keith Law or Kevin Goldstein.

    Here's the difference. The Cubs can afford to keep Garza. It's not like at 30 he'll suddenly become a lousy pitcher, he'll likely continue to be very good for several years assuming they extend his contract.

    WAR is nice but we have to be careful when we treat it as gospel. It has big limitations when it comes to evaluating talent/ability. Garza is not at all like the pitchers you mentioned. He's 28, he's healthy, and his stuff is top shelf. It's not a matter of it him doing it with smoke and mirrors last season, it's always been a matter of him not doing enough with his talent. Last year he came close to approaching that. I'm not going to assume he's not going to continue to be productive -- or even improve-- just because he's 30 or because he wasn't as productive in past seasons (which largely had to do with a poor approach on the mound, something he corrected last season).

    if you ask me whether I'd rather have Garza or any of those packages, I would choose Garza over almost all of them. Even if it's a 3-4 WAR Garza -- though I won't make the assumption he won't continue to be as productive as he was last season.

    It's not just about rebuilding, it's about market size. If you're a smaller market who isn't contending, then you make the trade and hope for the best and that you beat the odds. The Cubs were willing to continue rebuilding with guys like Cespedes (27), and it's not unrealistic that they will pursue similarly aged players next season as well-- why not keep the top young MLB pitcher you have now if someoone isn't going to give you a top talent in return?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    While the Cubs (unlike small market teams) have the resources to both keep Matt Garza and rebuild, it doesn’t make sense to do so when if rebulding could be hastened by trading him.
    The best case scenario for keeping Matt Garza would be that he helps the Cubs win a few more games over the next two years (short term goal), but it does nothing to further the Cubs’ chances of becoming a perennial playoff team (ultimate goal). Conversely, trading him for a Rizzo-esqe quality second or third base prospect might further the Cubs’ chances of becoming a perennial playoff team. Isn’t it that simple? Especially when Garza’s 2011 pitching was atypically good? 2010 was not that long ago and he was not a good pitcher in 2010 (or 2009, or 2008).

    If he can be traded for a top quality prospect the Cubs should jump at the chance.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Correction to my above comment: Garza wasn't a bad pitcher in 2008 & 2009. He pitched pretty well, just not a the level of a #1 or #2 starter on a good team.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    It's not that simple. You're assuming Rizzo or anyone the Cubs would potentially acquire for Garza will be productive long term starters. That's where I say the assumption is flawed. My point has been that recent history has shown that acquiring prospects, even top-level guys, hasn't produced long term answers and it hasn't hastened rebuilding. In most cases, if teams could have afforded to keep those pitchers, they probably would have benefited more by doing so.

    If it were that simple, the Cubs would have dumped Garza off for prospects by now and crossed their fingers. They've had offers. They know the risk and it's why they are demanding elite talent in return to minimize it as much as possible. If they get that kind of top talent back, then you make the deal, but under no circumstances do you settle on a trade just for the sake of "rebuilding". You can rebuild with Garza. You can't assume the year will be his peak and that he'll regress. It's possible, but it could just as well be a breakthrough, which often happens at Garza's age.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The Cubs do not need a top pitcher for this season as much as they need a potential all star for the future. While dealing Garza for a Rizzo-esque prospect (who plays a position of need--e.g. anywhere except first or shortstop) does not guarantee that the prospect will pan out, it's a chance the Cubs need to take.
    If I understand you correctly, I think that the mistakes in your reasoning are: You view Garza as an ace pitcher and as such you feel that the Cubs need to receive exactly equal value in return. In other words, the "talent scale" must have equal weight on both sides of the scale.
    The Cubs need to get the best value they can get out of Garza to help hasten their rebuilding. Obviously, an ace pitcher (although I don't think Garza really is one) for two years does not help the Cubs become a perennial playoff team. That is why the it is still worthwhile for the Cubs to trade Garza even if they don't receive exactly equal "talent" in return . The Cubs' need to rebuild is stronger than their need for two great seasons from Garza. Obviously you don't trade Garza for one or two prospects that nobody thinks are any good. But you also don't need to get both Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in return.
    Keeping Garza because we cannot get a team to give us exactly equal value in return seems illogical and obstinate to me. The Cubs have a dire need to rebuild and a minor need to win a little more over the next two seasons.
    A thirsty man in the desert will trade his Rolex for a glass of water, even if the Rolex is technically worth more than the water back in town. Glug glug, let's get the rebuilding going.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    This sounds a lot like trading for the sake of trading. You have to be on the brink of death to trade a Rolex for a glass of water. The Cubs aren't nearly that desperate and that would be a lousy way to bargain. Trading Garza for less than top talent is more like trading your Rolex for a glass of water when the water fountain is just two or three blocks away and you're still in good enough shape to walk there yourself.

    Getting equal or better value is not obstinate. It's how you get better. You certainly don't get better by giving up more than what you get back. Which of those teams who traded SPs are better off right now? The Jays maybe, but not because of the players they acquiried and they'd probably be one of the favorites if they still had Halladay. The Indians would be the clear favorites if they had found a way to extend Sabathia and Lee. Maybe they had to make the deal because they couldn't afford to keep them, but that's not a problem the Cubs will have.

    And again, rebuilding and extending Matt Garza are not mutually exclusive. A 30 year old pitcher of Garza's caliber making 15M/yr for the next few years is more valuable than 2nd or 3rd tier prospects who won't even crack the starting lineup. Maybe that doesn't add a lot surplus value, but he adds talent -- and eventually you win with talent, not mediocre players who are great financial bargains.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Baseballet, have you considered in your arguments that, if Garza were to be traded, that the hole created would then have to be filled in 2-3 years time? And that quality SPs (of which you will have to agree is an apt description of Garza - at worst he is a #3 in 2-3 years) are a difficult commodity to fill? Keep Garza and in a couple years the Cubs need to add probably 1 quality SP. That is doable. Trade Garza and then you have to add at least 2. That would be more difficult IMHO, especially if the prospects obtained do not pan out.

    I say extend Garza. He will be still be a quality SP in 2-3 years time, and it will be one less hole to fill in what will surely be a sellers market.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Norway, that sounds like a good idea to me if the Cubs could get Garza to agree to accept a long term contract at the pay level of a #3 starter. The road block to that I'd guess would be that Garza will want #1 starter money. I don't think he's proved himself enough to have earned a long term contract for megabucks.

    What I don't want to happen is to just let Garza pitch for two years and leave and get nothing for him. That's what Hendry would have done because he was always lured into trying to "compete" for a weak division instead of rebuilding.
    Garza's BIGGEST value to the Cubs is not two more years of #2 quality stuff, which wins us a few extra games during our rebuilding efforts. Rather it's in the pieces he can add to help shorten our rebuilding time. Wouldn't you rather trade Garza for a top second base or third base prospect? It just seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Baseballet, the software would not let me reply to you, so I am replying to myself in order to keep the discussion in more-or-less the same place.

    I am in total agreement that letting Garza walk in two yrs for "nothing" (I don't know how any FA compensation would work for him) is silly and shortsighted. However, all things being equal, I would rather have Garza and sign or trade for an upgrade at 2B or 3B, than trade him for a top-notch 2B or 3B prospect and have to replace Garza in 2-3 yrs. My reasoning is that it will likely be easier and cheaper to do the upgrade when the time comes than replace what Garza potentially brings to the table in 2-3 years. Unfortunately, all things are not equal, and, if Garza really wants $20 mil/yr, then that is a completely different kettle of fish. If, however, we are able to get him signed to an extension for say 5 yr at 12-15 mil/yr, I say do it. Maybe our improving farm system or some other deal can provide the line-up upgrade when we are ready to contend.

  • Just curious, if Tampa Bay offered to send back exactly what we sent them for Garza, do you think the Cubs should take that deal?

  • In reply to Andrew:

    That's always been an interesting question. If I thought Archer could be a starter I would say yes without hesitation. At this point it looks like he'll be a RP with great stuff and so-so command, something the Cubs already have in bunches.

    Guyer has been essentially replaced by Sappelt as a good hitting 4th OF'er type. And it looks like one of the few decisions the Cubs made correctly in that deal was to keep Castillo over Chirinos. (Actually you could argue that keeping McNutt over Archer may also pay off if McNutt remains a starter).

    The key to the deal is how much you like Hak Ju Lee. If you're Keith Law and think he's going to be great, then I think I'd take the deal back to get a quality everyday starter and some depth back. Lee is the key. If Archer does figure out and become a starter, then it's an easy decision. If Archer is a RP and Lee is an average starter, then it was a better deal from a talent standpoint for the Cubs --even if the timing was bad. Hendry, though, looked at Garza as a long term answer, so we'll have to see if Epstein/Hoyer feel the same way.

    But that it's that close and that I have to attach a few IFs to take that deal back, goes to show the uncertainty I have and how the Cubs may easily wind up with the best player in the deal while having the depth to replace the secondary guys.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    While Lee seems like a good prospect, and maybe we would like to have him back, it seems to me that Hendry did (at least with Lee) what many here agree with: trade from strength. In addition to Castro, there are an abundance of good middle IF prospects in the Cubs system.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    True, and I always find it curious how Lee has gotten so much more attention since being traded to the Rays. He's been pretty much the same player the whole time.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think your assessment of Archer may be off a bit. While he struggled early in 2011 he rebounded well enough to be named a AA all-star and earn a late promotion to AAA where he allowed just one earned run in two starts. 124 of his 130 minor lg appearances have been as a starter and he has made just two relief appearance over the last three years. Maybe I misunderstood you and you are predicting bull pen duty for Archer in the future due to his control issues. That may well be a possibility somewhere down the line, but the switch to a relief role has not happened yet

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Maybe, but it's a concern that has followed him even as a Cub. It's been echoed by prospect gurus like Jim Callis and Keith Law. The AAA performances were nice, but the control/command still wasn't there and I dont think he could have sustained it over a larger sample size. He has a shot to right the ship, but if I had to bet I'd say reliever until that command improves.

  • In 2002 the Indians traded Bartolo Colon to the Expos for a package of prospects named Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Cliff Lee. That was a somewhat unique situation with the Expos facing an uncertain future, but there is always a chance that type of deal happens again. That's why you have to trade for the prospects if an attractive offer is on the table in my opinion.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    That's one of the best deals of all-time. That's a tall task to be able to get that kind of return ;) Interesting that the Indians only kept one of those guys, though.

    I agree that it has to be an attractive offer. What I guess I'm saying is that even if they do, it's no guarantee it's going to work out for them. That's what makes it so important for them to not settle for anything less than top talent.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    One of the worst veteran for prospects trade ever. I don't care
    what Colon did.. There must be a can't miss prospects out
    there for Garza. Also other good prospects in the deal. I hope
    Bud settle the comp issue today.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    ppl always remember how this trade turned out, but what ppl dont realize is that the indians just got extremely lucky. at the time im pretty sure sizemore was the prize in the deal, cliff lee was nothing close to any type of certainty and phillips had upside. it just turned out that all 3 of these guys went on to become all stars, and it was more luck than anything else. not even the indians really knew what they had gotten because they ended up getting rid of the 2 best players from this trade (not by choice with lee, but regardless...) this trade couldve easily become a win for the expos. and the indians honestly wouldve been happy if just one of these guys panned out, so u cant use this as an example of what could be.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Luck was precisely my point. All prospect deals include a great degree of luck. The fact that this deal turned out the way it did makes me want to roll the dice. Look what could happen if everyone does pan out. Sure is unlikely to find 3 future all-stars in any deal, but that's how a franchise is dramatically changed for year's to come.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    I don't disagree. My main point though is that the better prospects you get (Sizemore and Phillips were great prospects, Lee was a good, but not great prospect at the time), the better chance that you'll get "lucky". Luck plays a role, but Cubs have to make sure they put themselves in the best position possible for luck to happen.

    I'm not against trading Garza by any means for all the reasons stated here in this comments section, but I'm a hardliner when it comes to the return. It has to give the Cubs at least an opportunity to get significantly better.

  • John, I feel like I haven't heard much in all of this about two points, and I think they're related -- the "system" and the coaching.

    First, do you think there is such thing as "system" guys in baseball? The best analogy I can think of is with an NFL defense, where a guy might excel in a Cover 2, 4-3 scheme but not be a good fit for, say, a 3-4 defense. Could that be true at all with baseball position players or pitchers? I suspect it's not, but I figured I'd ask anyway.

    Second, how much weight should we place on minor league coaching? Do you think that most guys are going to develop (or not) mostly based on their talent, or is it up to the coaches to truly maximize abilities? Here, I assume coaching does matter. If so, do you trust the Cubs' coaches in the minor leagues to maximize our talent right now?

    I ask these questions because clearly with the players you mentioned above, these guys were studs when traded and became duds. I wonder if they would have stayed with their original teams and developed all the way through in their original coaching/systems if they would have become the studs they were projected to be.

  • In reply to mosconml:

    1st question: The closest I can think of to a baseball system is the Dave Duncan and the Cardinals pitchers. He teaches all his pitchers to pitch a certain way and consistently makes the most out of their talent. Doesn't work for all pitchers, though, just as any system doesn't work for all players.

    You could also say that stadiums kind of create loose systems. It causes the Padres to have to build around speed, pitching, and defense. The old Cardinals teams played on fast turf, so they got fast players. Colorado needs to avoid flyball pitchers and build around hitting over base stealing speed.

    2nd question: It's mostly talent, but development plays a role. I think what you have to have is a consistent philosophy in place. That gives your coaches a chance to succeed. If they know what they're supposed to teach and the players know what to expect then it increases the odds. But talent and the mental ability to make adjust ments are at the top for me.

  • I've moved into the extend Garza camp. He was a top 15 SP last year measured by both FIP and WAR and I believe he can maintain that level of performance. You don't win a title in MLB without 2 high quality pitchers in the 1-2 rotation slots. If Theo believes Garza fits that description then why trade him for uncertain prospects? Even if the Cubs can get Turner, Castellanos, Smyley & Oliver from Detroit the chances of even 1 of them turning into a 4+ WAR player is remote. I think the Cubs should offer Garza a Danks type deal of 5 yrs/$65 and see if he bites.

  • In reply to Zorb:

    I agree Zorb, but I'd do it for the trade mentioned above. That's enticing enough to make it worth the gamble. Even a deal headlined by Turner and Castellanos plus a high risk/high reward prospect or two would get me to pull the trigger.

    In the absence of a big offer, then I think you have to extend him and make him a part of your rebuilding. As I've mentioned, I'm all for getting value, but I'd much rather have the best talent possible in the end than getting a great financial deal on average players. Eventually you need impact players to succeed and if you can't land it with Garza, then you have to pass.

  • This is EZ. You get top prospects for Garza or you extend.
    It's not like he's old. If the Cubs aren't contenders while he's still good heads are gonna roll!

  • In reply to eaton53:

    I'm 100% agreement on that. I'm not one for settling for whatever you can get.

    For me to agree to trading Garza for whatever you can get, I have to assume 1) the Cubs can't or won't extend Garza, 2) He won't continue to pitch at a high level and 3) the Cubs will get stars or even useful regulars in return if they do trade him, but recent history shows the odds are very much against that happening.

    I can't make those assumptions, so I just can't agree the Cubs should just trade him and get whatever they can. They absolutely have to get multiple top prospects in return, and by that I mean one top 25 prospect and a second top 100 prospect for me to take on the risk of trading Garza for a prospect package.

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    Non-thread related, but Blake DeWitt has cleared waivers and has been out-righted to Iowa.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Wow. Nobody wanted him for nothing and at that low salary. Incredible. One underrated thing the Cubs have done well is roster management. They have managed to sign a handful of players for their roster and have only lost one player, Jeff Bianchi, in the process.

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    Wow! I was already in the "probably it works out better to keep Garza camp because no one seems to be offering us their firstborn sons" but this article was really eye-opening John! That was the sense I had already, but to see how crappy those prospects have turned out to be in so many cases makes you think twice about rolling the dice. That's why I think you need to get at least 2 "can't miss" prospects for Garza because we see how all too often even the "can't miss" guys miss. I agree, it's not like Garza is over the hill. I believe he can be effective for several more years (there is certainly a better chance of this than many alleged prospects that some would deal for, as you detailed) so if nobody ponies up, this is a no-brainer I believe for team theo.

    on a side note, auction league draft is tonight! I'm pumped, hopefully everybody else is and we get no computers picking. we have 11 teams in it, so we can play with that, but it would be nice to get at least 1 more team if anybody else wants to join. We have a max of 16 teams if more than 1 team wants to join!

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    Exactly, even a can't miss guy is probably 50/50, so getting two of them is a big key for me.

    Gary, I'll probably miss the draft because I'm taking the wife out for dinner, but I'll make sure and pre-rank and hopefully join the auction in progress. Hopefully my team isn't a disaster by then! Then again, I've never been done a baseball auction, so maybe that's a good thing?

    I'll try my best to make it, though, I've always wanted to try an auction league.

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    sounds good, no worries John! If you pre-rank the computer does a pretty job of following your wishes I believe. But yeah, the later rounds is where you can really do your good work because anybody can draft stars, but you have all the inside knowledge on the up and comer types. so hopefully you can make it by then. It probably takes at least a couple hours. so if you just miss an hour or so you can still make a good portion of it. If you want, we could move the draft, just let me know, i'm pretty flexible and could do most any night around 8:30 or 9pm

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    we could even just move it back an hour if you think that works better

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    No, please don't change it on my behalf. I'll try and make it. If she works late tonight, we'll just wind up ordering dinner. Will look at the players and try to come up with some sort of strategy!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, I wasn't able to make it. I've got a crazy looking team, looks like a rebuilding is in order.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    that's ok John. Your team could surprise, like the Cubs! :) You've got some good pitching, and some decent punch on offense. I did notice that your computer auto-picker guy seemed to aggressively bid on alot of the top closers. Was that a strategy you had, like did you move up your values for those closers or was your computer just going off on its own? if you don't want to say, that's cool, I was just curious. I also have to admit at the end of the draft i stole one of your picks because your computer nominated lucas duda, and just about everybody was out of money by then, and i was like, hey if john likes him, i think he could be good, so i went ahead and grabbed him for $2.

    I liked your pick of Alejandro de Aza at the end of the draft by the way, I was going to take him myself but by that point i didn't have any more excess cash to steal him away from you! :)

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    In reply to Gary Kueper:

    also I thought you did a nice job of grabbing Ian Kennedy for like $15. that was a good bargain. And Konerko, everyone always seems to think he is over the hill, including myself, but he keeps doing it every year lately, and all the projections have him down for another solid year again. I think you may be better than you think!

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    Wife came home around 8 and still wanted to go out, so I didn't get home until late.

    Duda's not a bad hitter. Great size and developing power, good plate discipline. Could be a sleeper, could be a bust but late in the draft worth taking a chance on.

    I didn't really have any idea how much things would cost and I don't think I raised the player values enough on players I liked, so I probably got outbid on quite a few of my top choices. Ah well, live and learn.

    I didn't have any particular strategy on closers. That was the computer.

  • Great discussion, folks! Obviously there are risks when trading for top prospects but there also risks associated with negotiating extensions for players who are currently performing well : Can you spell "Z-A-M-B-R-A-N-O"? How did that extension work out?

    That aside, I'm in the "extension camp". With better defense (his own included) and a better bullpen, Garza is an 18-20 game winner last year.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    It has been a great discussion today, hasn't it? Some good points brought up by both sides.

  • I agree with your article...,but take it a step further. Sign him to that 5-year extention.Use him as your building block, not only on the field, but in the Cubs PR program. With Castro in limbo, and a few other names a crap-shoot, he would be the most logical choice...,but only after you re-up with him.

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    Are you wanting to sign him now in ST or before the deadline? Garza was certainly the Cubs best player last season and he did seem to grow up a lot off the field. All indications were that he was a great teammate. Never would have thought this a couple of years ago, but Garza can be one of the faces of your franchise.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Depends on your needs for PR. If Cub ticket sales are strong, you dont need to spend money on PR NOW, so Cubs can quietly listen to over-valued offers for him until the trading deadline. Remember, how he feels figures into the equation. Bottom line, re-up him.., and start to use him as the NEW face of the franchise.

  • I still have a hard time understanding why it's a good idea to trade Garza. He's young and talented, and it's never a bad idea to have a reliable starter year in, year out.
    It seems from the second we got him, we've been trying to trade him.

  • In reply to WindyCityWeekly:

    Good starters are hard to come by. Especially young, healthy ones. I do understand the idea of trading Garza, but I don't understand the eagerness to do it. The only reason you do it is if you get surplus value in return.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Interesting points. I'm sure the Cubs FO has been having similar discussions. I wasn't disagreeing just to argue, I'm just really interested in these topics. Love the site - it's the first thing I check evey day with my morning coffee. Thanks!

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Thanks! You had some interesting points as well. I like an occasional civil debate. It's fun. There's been quite a few good debates on this site and I've never seen one get nasty.

    It never bothers me if someone disagrees with me. If everyone agreed all the time, it would be pretty boring. I understand both sides, and we're probably not as far apart on this as it seems. I think we'd both trade him for the right deal, but we probably have a different idea of what the"right deal" would entail.

  • If we trade Garza we're going to need a bonafide A+ pitching prospect, I think those types of pitchers for the most part have done pretty well in the majors. I think John Sickels did a piece on minorleagueball on the progress on some of those pitchers he rated as A-, A+ type prospects.

    Jacob Turner needs to be included in any Detroit Tigers deal, then toss in some of the young lefties. You'd also hope they can get Castellanos out of it too.

  • In reply to furiousjeff: (Pitching prospects from 2007) (Pitching prospects from 2003-2006)

    The list is pretty a good, but I mean I guess you never know with prospects. Injuries do seem to play a key part in whether or a not a guy reaches his full potential though.

  • In reply to furiousjeff:

    Exhibit A as to why you need to get someone like Turner!

  • I'm starting to lean towards keeping him myself (while seeing if anything jaw-dropping is offered around July).

    If we really are building for 3-4 years down the road, the real question is durability. Will he hold up? Considering he just seems to be hitting his stride at 27-28, I wouldn't mind having Garza, even if he regresses a little, at 31-32 as a 2-3 hole pitcher.

    Look at how well Lilly worked out as a 3. He was 32 in 2008. Garza, i feel, has that similar bulldog, winning mentality and is a good clubhouse character. I know they're different types of pitchers, but could this shake out similarly?

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    I think that's reasonable. Garza's a tough SP like Lilly, more talented but results aren't all that different.

    The part I wonder, like you said, is if he's hitting his stride right now. Was it a fluke last year or did he just get a lot better? I'm sure a lot of teams are asking themselves the same question. They want to believe he got a whole lot better but their trade offers treat him as if he's a fluke -- it's a tough spot for the Cubs. I think they can get just as much as they're likely being offered now if they wait to deal him later in the year.

    As long as Garza stays healthy, you can still get a decent return for him. Even if he regresses a bit to more of a 3rd starter, you'll get a decent package at the trade deadline. If he builds on what he did last year, teams will be much more confident about giving up a bigger package for him. I think it makes sense to wait right now unless someone blows them away.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Nice article about Garza arriving for Spring Training:

    Something from the article about Garza that I didn't realize: "In the second half, he was 6-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 15 games."
    That's pretty awesome.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I knew he pitched well but I didn't realize he was that good in the 2nd half. Thanks for the link too.

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    That is pretty awesome.

  • @ John and Michael, yeah he was awesome considering how bad that team was last year..I know that those deals John posted earlier turned out less than spectacular for the teams trading the front line pitcher..that being said those deals this offseason especially the Latos deal makes you wanna take that chance..That could totally alter San Diego's fortunes in a hurry... Honestly, Detroit has made a really bold move getting Fielder and Garza makes too much sense for them..A freind of mine is a big time Tigers fan and he told me he'd give up Tyrner, Castellanos and Smyly for Garza..I told him done deal,..

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    It's a risk but I'd do it for that kind of deal as well. I'd also take that Tigers deal your friend suggested.

  • John
    I finally recalled one other trade of established SPs for prospects : the infamous 1997 White Sox -Giants White Flag Surrender trade. Sox traded Alverez, Darwin, and Hernandez for SIX Giants' minor leaguers including Keith Foulke and Bob Howry. The other four did not pan out : Lorenzo Barcelo (probably the most talented) blew out his arm, Mike Caruso was rushed WAY too soon, and Vining and Manning never made it to the majors.

    The Cubs Den Web Site probably doesn't have enough Petabytes to hold all of the analyses and comments written about that trade ...

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Haha! Probably not. You can certainly find some good deals for SPs if you search. There's the Colon deal that was talked about. There's also the Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell for Hanley Ramirez/Anibal Sanchez deal that worked out well for both teams.

  • Anothe point... I'm sure many here would pursue Hamels next year as a FA.
    Well, Hamels and Garza are about the same age.
    If not interested in extending Garza then why pursue Hamels?

    A team can go far with dominant SP's. I believe Cub pitching will be much improved over last year, trotting out actual MLB pitchers daily instead of the likes of Davis, Ortis, Lopez and Coleman.

    But the Cubs need to develop hitters! Hopefully they will be able to manufacture enough runs to scratch out wins in the many expected close games.

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