Matt Garza was once considered the Cubs biggest potential trade chip. There were rumors of Garza going to the Blue Jays, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, even the Royals, who just pulled off a trade for a similar talent in James Shields.
Today Garza's value has fallen to the point where it really is questionable that they should trade him. Nobody doubts his talent, but with an injury adding uncertainty in the present to go with just one year of cost control remaining, the Cubs have to ask whether the Cubs can get any worthwhile value in return.
Teams will want a discount because of the risk factor, even if he throws well this spring. The alternative then is to let him pitch into the 2013 season and re-establish value while allaying concerns about his elbow.
The problem there is that even if he does pitch well and stay healthy, the structure of the new CBA hurts his value in a midseason trade. Not only will teams see him as a 2 month rental, but they can no longer get compensated with a draft pick or two.
No matter how it pans out, the Cubs would be selling low on Garza.
So re-sign him.
The same factors that limit his trade value also limit the amount that Garza can ask for in an extension. The Cubs must take risk factors into consideration when structuring a deal so they'll have to get creative. It may come in the form of a shorter number of years plus a lower AAV with some incentives thrown in to give him a chance of reaching an acceptable yearly salary. Maybe it includes an opt-out clause for Garza in case he returns to form and wants a chance to re-negotiate or test the free agent waters. I think some combination of flexibility/stability would be ideal for Garza. He has been vocal in his love for the city and the organization as well as his desire to find some stability. The Cubs were his 3rd organization by the age of 27.
It isn't just about buying low on a Garza extension. It's also about investing in him and adding flexibility. In the present, Garza will be one of their top 2 starters if he's healthy. He's just 29 and right in the middle of his peak years. He's been more effective as a Cub with better command and a more effective approach on the mound. It's possible that Garza even has some upside left.
The team itself is still building and looking to acquire long-term assets, particularly on the mound. Garza can be that. He fits in terms of age, stuff, command, and a mental makeup that continues to look more and more solid as he matures. He has proven his worth to the Cubs on and off the field.
By extending Garza, the Cubs can make a more prudent decision going forward. Many factors come into play as to where the Cubs go once they extend him. It will depend on the deal, the team, and Garza himself.
That gives the Cubs two possible scenarios that greatly favor the Cubs...
- Garza outperforms his contract and the Cubs find themselves in position to contend in the next year or two. In that case, you may want to keep him as one of the leaders of your rotation.
- Garza outperforms his contract but the Cubs don't make any progress as a team. In that case, you now have a tradeable short term asset that has surplus value and you cash that in for long term assets.
The risk is that if Garza doesn't outperform a team friendly contract, then you aren't really that much worse off than you are now, which is a sell low scenario.
There is some increased financial risk, of course, but if you can work a way to buy out this arb year and extend him through 2014 with a team option for 2015, then you even mitigate that risk substantially. That kind of extension would have been unthinkable at this point last year, but circumstances have changed because of the increased risk involved with the injury.
A flexible, short term extension would buy the Cubs some time to assess the potential for the team to become contenders by 2014 or 2015, while also adding trade value and flexibility in case they don't.
For Garza it gives him some amount of stability with an opportunity to prove himself in 2013 and 2014. If he does pitch well, then the short term nature of the deal would also allow him to cash in with a longer term contract while he's still young (31 or 32). That longer term contract could come in the form of a second extension with Cubs or it could come through an increasingly lucrative free agent market.
It makes sense for Garza and the Cubs as each side picks up some stability, flexibility, and some time to add value. It may end up being the most important move the Cubs make this offseason.
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