It was an ill-advised deal by Hendry. He had the right idea, which was to trade for a 27 year old cost-controlled pitcher. It's the timing that was the problem. Garza may have been entering his prime years, but the Cubs as a team were well past their peak performance years. It was a team with aging veterans and little payroll space with which to work, but Hendry felt the clock ticking on his own career in Chicago, so he rolled the dice and traded 5 prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right now it seems that the Cubs didn't give up any future superstars to obtain Garza. Three of them: Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, and Sam Fuld, don't look to be starters at this point. Hak-Ju Lee looks like he can become a regular MLB SS but he doesn't look like a star. The Cubs are deep at SS at both the MLB and minor league levels, so that part of the deal may not hurt them all that much, though having a young, cost-controlled player at a premium position would be a nice asset to have right now. The Cubs also lost a good arm in Chris Archer, who throws a mid-90s fastball and a plus-plus slider, but command problems will likely limit his upside to a mid-rotation starter or late-inning reliever. Still, he's cost-controlled for the next 6 years and has plenty of time to improve -- and at a cheap price.
Meanwhile, Matt Garza is about to get expensive and enter his 30s while the Cubs don't appear close to contending yet. Phil Rogers writes that he believes the Cubs will try to recoup some of the young talent that Hendry traded away in his last ditch effort to put together a winner in Chicago.
Garza's value isn't what it was when the Cubs traded him. Though he's improved as a pitcher since then, he's two years older and has just one year of cost control left. He also won't be cheap this coming season. MLB Trade Rumors projects Garza to make $10M in 2014. Whomever trades for Garza will be doing it because they think that a) they can win now and/or b) they have the resources to re-sign him.
One obstacle is Garza's health. The Cubs looked like they were on the verge of trading him last season. By the deadline, Garza had proved his improvement last year wasn't a fluke, and he had become arguably the most valuable pitcher on the trade market because of the extra year of cost control he had at the time. Then, right when it seemed the Cubs were going to recoup some value, Garza felt pain in his right elbow and missed the rest of the season. As far as is known, he has still not taken the mound, much less throwing at full strength.
Obviously this is going to make it difficult to trade him by the winter meetings for any kind of fair value. Teams will want to know he'll be healthy in 2013, but if the Cubs wait until after opening day, the team that acquires Garza won't receive the supplemental pick because of the new CBA rule that specifies that a pitcher must be with the team for an entire season in order to qualify for compensation.
The best case scenario for the Cubs would have been that Garza had proven he was healthy by now, but since that doesn't seem to be the case, they'll need him to be throwing well in the spring and perhaps pull off a deal before the season starts. Any team that trades for him before then will likely ask for a discount based on the uncertainty of his health.
The Cubs can withstand the loss of Guyer, Fuld, and Chirinos, but in order to make the deal worthwhile, they'll have to try and get two prospects to help make up for the loss of Lee and Archer. Whether that's possible remains to be seen. The Cubs will certainly try and obtain a young arm for Garza, but it's getting that second good prospect that may prove difficult. Their depth at SS and the emergence of C Welington Castillo will give them some flexibility. It allows them to target a hitter at a non-premium position, such as a corner OF'er. Teams are likely more willing to deal talent at positions that are easier for them to replenish. The Cubs, despite the recent improvement of their farm system, can use help at every position. Of course, the position where they lack the most depth is starting pitching.
We can look at last year's deadline deal in which the Cubs were able to trade Ryan Dempster, a pitcher who was more than likely a rental, and they were able to obtain two solid prospects in 3B Christian Villanueva and RHP Kyle Hendricks. You'd have to think the Cubs will use that as a template but with Garza younger and available for a full season -- and not to mention that the acquiring team having the option of obtaining a draft pick , the Cubs should be able to significantly upgrade the return...if Garza is healthy, of course. An alternative scenario is that the Cubs mitigate some of the risk and upgrade the return by adding a player in addition to Garza.
Some natural fit are teams that disappointed in one way or the other this past season but still have the talent to contend for a title in 2013. One example is the Toronto Blue Jays, where fans are getting rebuild-weary. The Jays fit particularly because they value the draft pick they could net for Garza and because of the pitcher's past success in the vaunted AL East. The Jays have the kind of good young arms the Cubs covet as well as some of the athletic position players they're looking to add.
The Yankees have always liked Garza, but an injury to Manny Banuelos and the ineffectiveness of Dellin Betances limits the value of the high ceiling pitching they could offer in return. They could still package Banuelos and a healthy, lower ceiling pitcher such as David Phelps and perhaps a lower level prospect. Then, perhaps by 2014, the Cubs could have two young healthy power arms in Vizcaino and Banuelos.
The Rangers could also have interest and they have the farm system depth to make the deal. Texas traded for pitching down the stretch and it's likely they won't retain Dempster for next season, so they could be in the market once again. They could also go in-house, however, and move Alexi Ogando and/or Neftali Feliz back into the rotation.
The Orioles are also a possibility now that they consider themselves contenders. Perhaps they feel another good, experienced arm could put them over the top. The question there is whether they have the depth to make a respectable offer since Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado should be off-limits.
These are just a few teams but you have to figure there would be interest from a lot more teams if Garza is healthy. Experienced, talented starting pitching, especially those under 30, are always in demand. A team that feels they're willing to take a risk in order to win in 2013 could pull the trigger here and maybe, just maybe, the Cubs can undo most of the damage that Hendry did by his well-meaning, but ill-timed deal.