Around this time last year, many were certain the Cubs were going to trade Matt Garza. I remained skeptical, not necessarily because I was against the idea, but because as a 27 year old pitcher coming off a 5 WAR year and two full years of cost control, the Cubs had every reason to shoot for the moon. Given Garza's spotty history before 2011, teams had every reason to hedge their bets and demand the Cubs' lower their price. To me, a compromise seemed difficult.
The Cubs also held the upper hand, not just when you consider Garza's age and performance, but also when you factor in that the Cubs being a big market team who would have no trouble keeping Garza if they so chose. There really wasn't any reason for the team to settle. So they didn't.
Given the recent history of trading top starters, many of them better and with a more consistent track record than Garza, the odds of getting an impact player in return are a lot lower than you might assume. I listed the more recent trades in an article back in February.
Since then, Garza's value has gone down. There is one less year of cost control. The changes in the CBA mean that if he isn't traded before the season, then the team acquiring him has no option to acquire compensation in the form of a draft pick. Then, of course, there was the season ending injury shortly before the trade deadline, the one that quashed any idea of dealing him before the offseason.
Recently, Garza has been cleared to resume "a normal offseason throwing program". He is expected to be healthy and ready for opening day, but the assumption here is that teams will be skeptical until they seem him in a live game. Will he have the same velocity and command or will they see a diminished Matt Garza?
On the plus side, Garza has quelled many questions about his makeup, which was a question before he landed with the Cubs. He has not only kept his emotions in check for over two years now, but he has done everything the team has asked, including revamping his approach. We also saw the Cubs pitcher stay with the team before and after it was decided he would miss the rest of the season. And not only did he stay with the team, but he became one of it's most visible supporters and offered himself as a resource to any and all of the young starters the Cubs trotted out in the second half. It all speaks volumes on Garza's growth from a mental makeup standpoint. So while there is increased risk physically, there is now much less risk, if any, with Garza about his character.
A team looking to acquire Garza could take one of three approaches...
- The first is a "wait and see" type of approach until the spring. Teams will have a better idea of what their needs are going into the season and they'll get a chance to see Garza pitch in game situations. Additionally, they can still get draft pick compensation as insurance.
- The second is a longer "wait and see" approach where a team waits until the trade deadline. At that point they'll have a better feel for whether Garza's elbow will hold up over the course of a season. The risk becomes greater, however, that the Cubs may decide to keep Garza and sign him to a multi-year extension. A team that acquires Garza at this later stage also loses the advantage of being able to obtain a compensation pick should they fail to re-sign him. Yet another, but significantly smaller risk is that the Cubs unexpectedly become a competitive team and thus will want to keep Garza at least until the end of the season.
- The third approach would be to strike now and assume greater risk. I wouldn't expect the Cubs to sell low unless they have genuine fears about Garza's ability to come back strong next season, but a team could theoretically get him for a lower price than later in the spring if Garza should prove healthy. At that point, the competition for Garza's services might increase. For the Cubs, if the offer gives them good value they should consider taking it as it minimizes their risk. At the same time, that extra security will come at the risk that Garza will be fully healthy inthe spring, thereby costing them a potentially superior package of prospects as a return.
We don't know about what the Cubs preference is or what their optimism is regarding Matt Garza. My guess is that they're willing to listen now if the right deal comes along, but won't trade him unless a team assumes a fair amount of the risk on both sides and puts together a good package. Otherwise I expect them to at least wait and see how Garza comes along this spring, if not longer.
What's your opinion on the next course of action for the Cubs?
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