Rogers: Cubs will put Matt Garza on the block when healthy

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.



Filed under: 2013 Offseason Series

Tags: Matt Garza


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  • But the Cubs may never be healthy.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    It seems that way sometimes.

  • Another great article as usual, John. I never liked the Garza deal. Jim Hendry continues to haunt the Cubs.

  • I'm only glad it wasn't worse. Lee no longer looks like a star and Archer no longer looks like a top 2 starter, but they can still be good players and great value. We also forget that the Rays preferred Chrinos over Castillo. If they would have gotten that part right it would have set the Cubs back even more.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    i disagree about archer. im really high on him. i think he does look like a #2. and that 6 years of cost control is something that gms dream of. that being said the trade alreasy happened and yes the cubs got the short stick and its not close. 5 mlbers for what is really a number 2 on a good team. wish hendry knew how to evaluate his organization better and not just focus on top flight talent.

  • In reply to Matt Mills:

    The command isn't top of the rotation quality. It has to improve before I can call Archer anything more than a 3 or a reliever. But even if he does turn out to be a 3, it makes it an even worse deal for the Cubs.

    Timing was wrong. Maybe you make that deal if you're a pitcher away from taking a shot at it, but the Cubs weren't even close to contending.

  • This deal wouldn't have been around to "haunt" you had Hendry not traded DeRosa for Archer in the first place.

    Until Archer or Lee turn into something, or until we see what we get for Garza, I'll reserve judgement on this one. Even then, I'll take it with a grain of salt, as Garza's injury may have precluded Hoyer and Theo from getting much more than Archer/Lee back in a deal.

  • In reply to Briant1:

    Hendry's not haunting me, he's haunting the Cubs. I'm sure the Rays would have been interested in someone else in the Cubs' system at the time.

  • The point is, you take the good with the bad. Hendry indisputably made a good trade FOR Archer, and the jury is still our whether or not the eventual Garza deals will end up working out in our favor.

  • In reply to Briant1:

    As John wrote, "It was an ill-advised deal by Hendry." I could not agree more.

  • I was against the trade in principle though I don't think it was as bad as it could have been. The timing was wrong and I think the only way the Cubs "win" that trade is if they get more value out of either Garza or whomever they acquire for him should they make a trade. I think their best chance of getting value is to trade him.

  • In reply to Briant1:

    He did make a good trade to get Archer and a lot of people liked Gaub and Stevens at the time too.

    The Garza deal could still end up in the Cubs favor eventually depending on what happens this offseason and over the next few years. But if I had my choice today, I'd take the deal back. I think the Cubs need to surpass the value of Lee and Archer and while it's not impossible, it's not going to be easy given the circumstances.

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    In reply to Briant1:

    dont think the jurys not out. 2 and a half years of garza on a bad team for 5 major leaugers. if he liked him he could have waited until he hit the f.a. market because tampa cant hold onto anyone.

  • Getting injuried right before the July trading deadline will alway
    come back to haunt us. The best bet is to wait until the July
    trading deadline and see how many teams realy what him.
    Let's hope we can get aleast 1 good/great prospect for him.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I don't agree here. I think the best bet is that he's healthy this spring so that the team knows they can recoup a draft pick. That would probably mean an extra player for the Cubs. If Dempster got one good prospect plus a solid pitching prospect, a healthy Garza should get even more.

  • I saw something on the internet some weeks ago, I forget where, speculating that Garza either had or is scheduled to get TJ. I really hope that was just a load of malarkey.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Me too. That would be the worst case scenario for the Cubs. Sounds bogus because reports at the time said there was no structural damage,

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    They also said it wasn't serious, but he's only thrown one very short side session before they stuck him on the 60 day.

  • I also didn't like the Hendry deal, but honestly, it doesn't appear to be as bad as it could have been. Lee will be a major league SS, but unless Archer can fix his control issues, he might just be a 7th/8th inning guy (which isn't awful, but not a death blow).

    I do hope the Cubs can move Garza in Spring Training. That way, it protects the team acquiring him, because they can get a pick if he leaves. And, we should get more value due to a team having him for a full season, instead of 2 months. That said, don't give him away. If the deal isn't there, hang on to him, and deal him in June. I would not wait until July, as the same issue that happened this year could happen next year.

  • In reply to bwenger:

    Agree on all points here.

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    Good article John, and I agree. The only way they could get any more for Garza after the start of the season would be if he were signed to a team friendly extension and proved he was 100% healthy, and that isn't a likely scenario.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thanks Michael. I think a team friendly deal would probably make him more appealing to some teams. It will be interesting to see how they play it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I never read Phil Rogers and as much as I really like this blog, I don't think that you can use his speculations as the basis for anything. He is a classic, mediocre sportswriter who has no shame in throwing crap out there when he has to fill out his required article. I feel no need to ever read him when I can get much better info and much better writing from this blog. If one must trade Garza then do it when another team is desperate. Otherwise, just lock him up. We have so little pitching and we have such a small payroll relative to our market, that the offer for him has to be a bona-fide sure bet.

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    While I agree that Rogers often just speculates for the sake of speculating, I do think the idea of trading Garza is very real. The article isn't an endorsement of Rogers in any way, just expanding on an idea.

    I do agree that it's going to be really hard to get anyone as good as Garza has been in return. The key, though, is when the Cubs think they'll be able to contend. Are they better off with a 30 year old Garza making $15M+/yr? Or are they better off getting some young talent and hoping they can provide similar value for less money, and then using that saved money to upgrade somewhere else? It's not an easy choice one way or the other. We saw that the A's trades of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill helped turn that team around, but we've also seen numerous cases where teams have gotten basically nothing in return.

    It's definitely going to be a big decision for the front office this offseason.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No more than 3 years 30-36 million.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That would make sense to me too.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    indeed. especially with how little starting pitching they have in the minors and the fact that they can almost spend yankee money if needed.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


    What is the likelihood of Garza pitching a few sessions this winter for scouts to come and watch in order to prove he is healthy? That way the deal wouldn't be hanging over the team during spring training.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    I think the Cubs would prefer something like that happened if they felt they could get the same value. I think it's possible. Teams may bank on things like med reports, velo, etc. and presume he's healthy, but if I were a GM, I think I'd want to see if he could pitch in a live game and then bounce back strong for the next outing.

    On the flip side, if I'm a GM and I'm reasonably optimistic based on all the reports, I might make Theo an offer that is slightly less than value and see if he'll bite rather than take his chances this spring. We know Theo won't settle for something much less than value, but if an offer approaches what he is looking for, even if it's a bit short, maybe he makes the deal rather than risk another injury later.

  • This makes spring training all that more interesting this year. Teams will likely wait to see what they have and as long as possible on Garza to see if he's healthy before making a deal. The Cubs best chance to get the greatest return will likely be in the final week of ST.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I think you're right. This could end up being a deal late in ST if it's made. His velo and command will be watched closely too, moreso than his results.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Let's hope the Cubs doctor/trainer monitor his winter workout.
    His pitch count will have to slowly increased as the spring
    goes on. Let's hope he is in good shape by ST.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    All this discussion on how to work him back into shape after what was supposed to have been a minor injury tells me that I'm correct in thinking he's more seriously hurt than is being talked about. Usually a player tries to come back before the end of the season so he can go into the offseason knowing he's ok.

    Another cubbie occurrence?

  • Was our bet by the the trade deadline or just him being trade?

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    It was the trading deadline. Circumstances are different now.

  • I'm glad Lee is turning out to be just a good everyday player and not a star. For a little bit I was worried that the Cubs kind of messed up by including him. The best scenario is Garza looking good early in spring training and the Cubs dealing him to the Yankees or Blue Jays for a decent package. The Cubs need for him to show he's healthy to get good value back.

  • I'm glad Lee is turning out to be decent player a decent player and not the star I though he could be. If the Cubs are smart they will wait until spring training and see if he's healthy. If he is then the Cubs should deal him to the Yankees or Blue Jays for a decent package.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    It really doesn't look like he'll be special. He didn't stand out to me in the AZ Fall League. Still, finding a solid, everyday true SS isn't easy.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    as the yankees will soon find out

  • Great blog John. I love checking out your site for updates/news.

    I have to disagree with you in regard to the timing of the trade. In my opinion, there is never a bad time to trade for a good/great starting pitcher entering his prime. This is especially true when you are a large market team with resources like the Cubs. The trade in hindsight was a great trade on Hendry's part, the biggest problem was that Hendry/Hoyer failed to put together the other pieces around Garza.

    I was excited to see Hoyer/Epstein state that their focus would to put a quality team on the field and rebuild the farm system. Very disappointed to see that they didn't stand by their words.

  • In reply to Cubz99:

    Thanks. My problem with that theory is that you wind up wasting a pitcher's prime years on a team that isn't good enough. And in the Cubs case, it was tough to build around them because they had so much of the payroll locked away on a few, aging players. You can't just keep piling money on to fix the problem or you get what the Red Sox went through this year.

    Those guys always said they'd lean toward the future over the present and I think they've stood by that. The farm system is vastly improved with at least 3 impact talents. Two they signed and one, Baez, that they helped develop. There is still a way to go but that system was in shambles.

  • Depressing to trade him right now with his value so low after the injury. Even with the comp pick and extra time, it almost feels like we'd get more back if he proves himself with a good first half and we trade him at the deadline. But I've been pleasantly surprised with what our FO has been able to talk other teams into before. Maybe a team with a chip on its shoulder will make a push if he has a solid spring. Someone like Baltimore or Washington or Cincinnati looking to take the sting out. (No idea what the last two have to offer though.)

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I would hope they don't trade him if the value is so low. If that turns out to be the case, then they'll be better off hanging on to him. The only reason to trade him is to get some value back. The problem is you can't wait forever. As the years go by, Garza gets more expensive, older, and his value goes down.

  • Maybe we can time it just right and be in ST when he gets traded.

  • i like the idea of letting garza show hes healthy in spring training and trading him before the season. hopefully its the blue jays, AA seems to really be under the gun and he probably doesnt wanna give up the prospects it would take to get shields or price. also the blue jays have an excellent farm system, with tons of pitching.

    off topic: i read somewhere today about a possible dan uggla trade with atlanta. hes got 3 years at 13 mil a year left on his deal and atlanta is a little tight on payroll, with a few holes to fill. atlanta also has a ridiculous surplus of starting pitching right now in: medlen, hudson, hanson, minor, maholm, delgado, tehran and beachy is scheduled to be back in the second half next season. that's 8 starters, and i didnt even mention any of their guys in AAA. having depth is a good thing, but when u have holes to fill sometimes u have to sacrifice.

    the trade suggested was the cubs absorbing uggla's contract and getting a pitcher (tehran or delgado most likely) in exchange for barney and maybe a bullpen guy of ours. ive been a barney believer for a little while, but i think this trade makes a ton of sense for our future. uggla has bounce back potential and if he does we can flip him to a contender for a nice haul considering the type of impact bat he carries when hes playing well. we also get a pitching prospect who will either start the year in AAA or with the cubs. the braves unload salary, get the best defensive second basemen in the national league and the opportunity to go out and get some outfield help.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    That would be a creative way for the Cubs to pick up young talent, to use some of that payroll space to pick up an Uggla type player as long as he comes packaged with young pitching. And who knows, maybe Uggla has another good year or two left in him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    exactly what im saying.

    yes it would suck to lose a guy like barney, but we'd be replacing him with someone who is miles ahead offensively, who just happens to be overpaid on a team who cant really afford to overpay people. i feel like the trade is pretty much a wash right there if you forget about the salary, whiche doesnt matter all that much to the cubs right now.

    then the cubs also get a possible #2 pitching prospect, i was sold on the deal right there. but then u also have to realize if he has a hot first half over the next 3 years u can deal him for prospects at the deadline and if he has a hot second half u can deal him during the winter.

    and the cubs are currently "building" so we have time to allow him to get healthy because we dont need him to win games if he isnt at least 90%, he wont be playing. he also can serve as protection for rizzo in the lineup if we trade soriano.

    there are just so many positives from this trade that i think if its on the table, it almost certainly has to be done.

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    The Garza trade that Hendry made would actually have been a brilliant trade...if he was GM of the Tigers or Rangers. The error was misunderstanding (or hoping) the Cubs were better than they actually were.

    It was time for Hendry to go, but he gets undue criticism for his trades. On balance, he did well in trades. I can go through them all, but he was well over 50% in success rate. The problem of course was the bad free agent contracts late in his reign, and insufficient development of the farm system. Theo and Co. seem determined not to repeat those mistakes.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That may be so, but you have to understand how good your team is too. You have to evaluate your own team better before you make a deal.

    The trade would have been fine if the Cubs were in a position to contend, but few people thought they were at the time. I'm not sure even Hendry did. There seemed to be a lot of wishful thinking on his part. That's my problem with the deal. It wasn't the exchange of players per se, it was the timing of the deal.

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    The Garza trade would have been a brilliant move by Hendry....if he was GM of the Tigers or Rangers. The problem wasn't the trade, the problem was that he misunderstood (or was hoping) the Cubs had a better base of talent than they actually had.

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    I know I should let this go, but if Dempster hadn't mucked up the works, Garza would have been moved before that injury ever happened.....That being said, lets get him healthy and see what we can get for him moving forward..Hendry did that deal hoping he'd keep the Cubs competitive enough to save his didn't work but a healthy Garza could net us a better package than what the Cubs gave up for him... I'd hate to lose Barney's defense but aquiring some young and ready arms may be what the doc ordered for this organization

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    That may indeed have had an effect. If the Cubs could have traded Demp early they would have then turned to aggressively pursue a trade for Garza.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Soriano's situation might become what Dempster's did. Supposedly he wouldn't mind being traded, but only to certain places, and he thinks the DH is boring. That kind of limits the Cubs' options.

  • I could definitely picture that happening. The Cubs have already seen their attempts to trade him hamstrung a bit. It must seem bizarre to this front office that players don't want to leave this sinking ship.

    That love for playing in Chicago could be a nice draw, however, once the team starts considering better free agents.

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    I think the Cubs are handcuffed slightly. They may get more value for Garza at the trade deadline, though that's risking an awful lot. But, if he puts up similar numbers to 2012, the demand and competition to acquire reliable starting pitching will inflate his value. It's risky, but I'd go that route if I was convinced he was healthy. In a deflated offseason market, I don't think the bonus of getting a compensatory draft pick is incentive enough to pay what the Cubs should expect to get in return. It could backfire if he gets hurt or is ineffective.

  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    Trade deadline deals tend to be less successful than offseason ones. In Garza's case though, you get him for less time, you don't get a comp pick, and you risk injury and/or a bad performance. I have to think that if the Cubs have a chance to deal before that, they will.

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    I tend to agree with you but I think in this instance, coming off an injury that has really been as undocumented as baseball will allow, I don't know. I know a lot of your readers/posters severely overvalue the Cubs trade bait, but in this case, I think if he is proven healthy he is worth much more. Hopefully, whenever he is dealt (if he is dealt), the Cubs will have upgraded significantly. Other than Vizcaino and Rizzo, the trades thus far have not netted much, and the take is less if Vizcaino is continually hurt or becomes a middle reliever. Playing Devil's Advocate........If I was trading for Garza now, I would offer the equivalent, or slightly more than the compensatory pick attached to Garza before opening day, at least until the market escalated. That being said, Garza is worth far more than that.

  • The Cubs' payroll is not anything near a problem at this point, and they need to collect good pitchers. Looking at what is available via free agency, and understanding that they won't get as much for him in-season because of the draft picks, and won't get full value pre-season because of the injury, it seems to me to make the most sense to keep him and extend him. We need as many top line pitchers as possible, and they're getting harder and harder to acquire.

    Trading Garza for a pitching prospect and a position player prospect means likely a net loss in starting pitching, because teams do not trade truly elite pitching prospects (at least not in return for one year of Garza), and anything less than that is a dicey proposition. With the pitching in the upper minors as thin as it is, I don't think it's wise to deal a guy like Garza unless you're getting two good pitching prospects in return (And by good, I don't mean Chapman, Brigham, etc. I'm talking Vizcaino.)

    They're better off keeping him at this point unless he's explicitly said to the FO that he plans on not returning after '13, and he's not willing to extend.

  • My feeling is you trade Garza, Marmol, and Soriano asap. I don't think the FO will give them away and should get fair value for them, but none of these three is a player I would say is one who you would choose to build a team around. Having all three on the team and around the players you are developing to be one the rebuilt team is not a good idea either. I have no crystal ball but I think Marmol will go this winter, Garza as soon as he's healthy and Soriano as soon as he figures out that his welcome here is waning and he better move while he can or he's going to learn how thin his support on this team really is, as in we support you as long as it helps your trade value.
    Also, I thought Hendry's garza trade was bordeline desperation move, it wasn't needed and didn't really help the time, it may have been one of those moves that gave Hendry' some breathing room from getting fired, and appeased the masses at the cubs convention and those with overpirced season tickets. Otherwise, not so great a deal for the team. That's what happens when you let former ownership guys hang around past the time a change should have been made, and why I think keeping Kenny in his job still is a mistake. How many extra years to undo Hendry's last bad moves, how many years to correct Kenny's??

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    In reply to eddie35:

    i think thats the goal save maybe garza. he still has to prove worth to other teams so the cubs can actually get value for him.

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