Should the Cubs keep Matt Garza or Scott Baker?

Should the Cubs keep Matt Garza or Scott Baker?

Neither Matt Garza nor Scott Baker have pitched yet this spring.  Neither is expected to pitch until around May.

But they may already by in competition.

It seems certain that the Cubs consider Jeff Samardzija as a building block and that Edwin Jackson was brought on to help stabilize the rotation.  After that it gets a little dicey.  Scott Feldman is on a one year deal and Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva have yet to prove themselves as starters.

Then there is Matt Garza and Scott Baker.  Though both are injured this spring, they are veteran pitchers who have shown they can be a key part of a rotation.  Each has had a 15 game win season, both have been above average starters over the last 5 years per WAR.  Garza has averaged 2.7 WAR over his last 5 years while Baker has averaged 2.9.  Garza has shown he's capable of having a big year (4.9 WAR in 2011) and may have better talent overall, but Baker has been more consistent throughout his career.  He has posted a WAR between 2.6 an 3.5 in all 5 of his last full seasons.

Another factor may be that although Garza has been hurt since July of last season, he has been the more durable of the two, averaging 179 IP to Baker's 135. He also hasn't had anything as severe as Tommy John surgery.

But...Baker will likely be cheaper to re-sign and the Cubs can used that saved money to go after a true ace.

It would be nice if the Cubs had the luxury of time to evaluate both pitchers, but each is signed through this year only.

With not much help out there for 2014 as far as either upper minor league talent or free agency, it seems to me the Cubs should keep at least one pitcher in addition to Samardzija and Jackson.

The question is should it be Garza, Baker, both, or neither?

The original plan was to trade Garza and I can't help wondering now whether Baker was signed not as a guy to flip, but as a potential replacement.  The Cubs signed him to a one year "make good" deal.  If he does make good, it puts them in position to either trade him or get the inside track in signing him to a multi-year deal.

We've grown accustomed to the idea of signing and flipping already, but I'm not convinced this was the case with Baker.  The first reason is that as a guy coming off of Tommy John surgery, he will almost certainly be put on an innings limit  -- especially considering he basically didn't pitch at all season.  Knowing he is only signed for one year, it's a big question as to whether a team that is contending will want to deal for him down the stretch considering they'll want big innings in August, September, and possibly October.  Baker himself concedes he'll be unlikely to do that,

"I'm not going to promise 20 wins and 200 innings," Baker said. "I haven't pitched in a year, I didn't pitch obviously last season, and it's going to be tough, but I'm willing to put in the work."

The second reason is that Baker is very much the type of pitcher the Cubs want in this organization.  He has a reputation of great mental makeup with an excellent approach on the mound and above average command that plays up his good stuff even more.  He has walked just 2.1 batters per 9 IP in his career while striking out 7.2.  In his last full season, he upped that strikeout rate to 8.22 while keeping the walk rate constant.

"Scott Baker is a pitch maker," Epstein said. "He's somebody who can go out and execute a game plan against the best lineups. When he's commanding and healthy, he'll have a lot of success in this division."

These two reasons tell me that this season may be more about audition than transition for Baker.  The Cubs plan may have been to trade Garza for young talent, including one young arm, and replace his spot in the rotation with Baker.  It should be pointed out that Edwin Jackson was also brought in, but I believe the Cubs were hoping he was more of a long term addition to the rotation than just a potential replacement for Garza.

The uncertainty now with both Garza and Baker has thrown a monkey wrench into the plans.  The Cubs will now have to let this season play out before deciding which pitcher constitutes the better long term gamble.  Perhaps they'll even keep both knowing that they likely won't get full value for either pitcher at the deadline.  They could also decide that both pitchers are too big a risk and try to get whatever they can for both arms and, in terms of they starting rotation, they'll go into the next offseason right about where they began this past offseason -- with 2 good arms and a lot of question marks.  To me this last option is the least favorable because it would indicate a lack of progress for the team, but they may not have much choice.

The best case scenario, of course, is that both pitchers get healthy and pitch well.  That will give the Cubs the best opportunity to decide how they can get the most value -- by signing both, trading one, or salvaging what they can for both pitchers.

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  • I think there's another view the Cubs may have taken with Baker: He may not be ready to pitch in time to get value for him by the deadline, but if he has a strong year, then you give him a qualifying offer.

    It might sound outrageous, but if Baker has a solid year (say 3.5 ERAish), offering him a 1 year, $13M contract is a no brainer. You get a guy with an injury history on a short term deal. Baker may not like it, but I don't see a lot of teams giving up a compensation pick for him. He'd be wise to accept the 1 year, $13M and hope he stays healthy and has a good year in 2014.

    I think the Cubs will look to trade both of these guys. If they can get better value than a compensation pick for either, they'll deal both. If not, they'll keep them, try and re-sign them for cheaper than market, and then offer them a qualifying offer if they're comfortable with having either for 1 year at $13M.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    That's certainly an option if Baker has a good year and the Cubs can't come to terms with him. If he takes it, it's only a one year commitment and you have the opportunity to try and sign again next year -- or you'll have a healthy pitcher to deal.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yep. I mean, the reality of it is, Baker is already 31. Even if he has a great year, if the Cubs offer him the qualifying offer, I think he has to take it. I don't see a big market out there for him where someone is going to give him 3 years, $40 million and give up a pick.

    And then after 2014, if he's still solid, the Cubs could just do the same thing and I think Baker would have to take it again.

    Because of his age, the Cubs could do this for years until they don't want him on that one year deal, at which point they can deal him at the deadline or just let him go during FA.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    He could take the QO or it could be an incentive for him to sign a longer term but lower base AAV deal, with incentives to reach QO money for multiple years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Absolutely, but either way, advantage: Cubs. Either they get a pick back or they get Baker for under market value.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This would be my preferred option for Baker, keep him on board at least through next year, his trade value will only go up if he can get back from injury ok. You would get more back for him if he prove's healthy and as good as before, no rush to trade him.

    For Garza, he may think his best option is to go into free agency and pick where he wants to play. If the cubs can't trade him because of his injury string, why would they resign him? If they make him a qualifying offer he'll just take it spend another year in chicago, his kids like it here, then go to free agency. The compensation pick may be the best you can get for him, if his injury string continues. I don't think he is a guy you rebuild around and offer a long term contract.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    If you don't re-sign or trade him, you have to make him a qualifying offer. Otherwise you don't get a draft pick and you lose him for nothing.

  • The best answer for that poll is it is a great thing to have multiple options, it also allows us to wait and see.

    The Baker signing could work out to be the best FA deal done by this org in the offseason.
    Best Case. Baker is a veteran who could be a high commodity come trade deadline. If the cubs protect his innings early and he lights it up end of May and all of June with QS after QS. And he returns even better prospects that Paul Maholm for the future.
    Middle Case. Baker is a try out and see if we want to resign. I really like Baker, I tend to hope this is the case with him.
    Worst Case. Baker just can get it going, Chris Volstad over again. Outlook here is the org took a shot, There are no bad 1 year deals and we move on. I don't foresee this even being remotely possible, but it as possibility.

  • In reply to waitingOn2015:

    Wait and see is really the only answer if you think about it, so I'm asking you all to look into your crystal balls :)

    Difference between Baker and Volstad, though, is that Baker has already had sustained success in the big leagues. Volstad was a flyer on potential. Baker is a flyer on a full return to health.

    I think teams will be wary of Baker's long term, late season contribution even if they do hold his innings down. They'll at least use that to try and drive the price down.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    well then in that case, i picked trade both, because if that happens I expect TheoHoyer to be happy enough with the return, to justify the future both could give us, down the road.

    I don't foresee trading both, but I think it would great for our future if we were able to.

  • In reply to waitingOn2015:

    True. If everything goes well it could end up being a pretty nice haul of prospects. If that happens, I hope that most of the prospects would be MLB ready (or near ready) so as not to set their timetable back too far.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I have to think the goal behind any sell-off this year is get a guy who can step right into the rotation behind Edwin Jackson and is cost controlled for multiple years. They certainly have more than enough pitchers to draw interest.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That'd be great, but who is going to give up a MLB ready #3 starter who is cost-controlled?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    How about Tampa? They acquired Jake Odirizzi in the James Shields trade and have no place to play him.

  • How can we tell if these guys have not pitched yet this season? This type of question should be asked in July, not now. Especially Baker who has never pitched for the Cubs.

    Theo is also going into an area similar to the 2012 Marlins. Sign a bunch a guys who think they might be here for a long term, but trade them within six months. True, none of these players were high price free agents, more like a M*A*S*H unit looking to play with a team after an injury.

    If Theo and the player came into an agreement to play here for the short term, that is one thing. But if guys like Baker, Feldman and Villanueva were told they were here for the long run and lied to by Theo, future F/A will stay away from the Cubs.

    Right now, lets see what happens. Sit back, relax and enjoy the season. So far this Central Division is looking better for the Cubs. Cardinals manager needs an operation, hitting is weak and their shortstop has arm problems, the Brewers are becoming an M*A*S*H unit and have no pitching at all, the Reds signed Mark Prior and their pitchers have sore arms...Old Dusty will chew through several Redwood trees this summer.

    By July 2013, the Cubs will need guys like Garza, Baker, Villanueva & Feldman for playoffs.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    By July the odds are the Cubs won't be in the playoff race unless something miraculous happens, which as a Cubs fan I am not counting on.

    Secondly why is it bad if Theo flips guys on one year deals? It is a one year deal, not a 6 year deal. I also don't believe Theo is running around telling everyone he signs to buy a house in Chicago. The players who sign here know what the risk is of getting traded. They aren't signing hear because it is the Chicago Cubs, they are signing hear because if gives them an opportunity to make themselves look better and hopefully earn themselves more money.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    You've tried to predict so many things in the past, why stop now?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Do you want the Powerball numbers for Wednesday?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Sure. We can all split the money.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Or we can buy the Kane County Cougars and have a box for Cubs Den people. John can be GM. :)

  • In reply to John57:

    LOL! That sounds like a better plan. We'll fly in out-of-staters in for a series.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    LMAO......

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Im betting Chapman will have a sore arm by the all-star break. And his FB velocity will drop by 2-5 mph by then. Watch and see, happens often to smaller, max-effort pitchers. Reds are actually doing everyone a favor taking that 100mph FB out of the pen.

  • Garza is the Cubs counterpart of the Bulls' Heinrich.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    He has been lately. Difference is Garza is actually very good when healthy

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Ouch. John laying the smackdown!

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    I guess I did smack Hinrich down didn't I? Ha...meant no disrespect. Let's just say he's a role player at this time :)

  • I liked Baker when he was with the Twins,... still like the 'idea' of Baker if he is healthy and ready to roll. The guy is relatively young, was consistent before the TJ, and doesn't give up a lot of HRs,... which plays well in Wrigley.

    I wasn't thinking that signing Garza was a good idea to begin with. His pitching style and tendency to give up HRs was not a good fit for Wrigley. He has fared better than I figured as regards the long-ball with the Cubs though. His mental makeup always seemed sound and he has been generally solid on a bad set of teams up until last year's elbow problem.

    I think signing both would be a good idea - IF both get through ~July & look healthy.

    Other than Vizciano - there really isn't a major-league ready arm in the Minors for 2014. Keeping them both makes some sense if the numbers and contract committments work out right.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I hear you there. I've been a fan of both Garza and Baker even before they came to the Cubs. Ideally I'd like to have both here and healthy. I'd be happy if they came back strong and decided to stay in Chicago!

  • i think the best case scenario would be that both of these guys regain their health and come back by the end of april, beginning of may so that there is plenty of time for the cubs and other teams to evaluate them.

    both of these guys will be in their thirties entering next season, garza (30) and baker (32), so i think the best thing for the organization would be for both pitchers to have a really hot first half and get traded to other teams. hopefully baker can get a maholm-esque return and garza can hopefully get something close to what the cubs were going to get at last years deadline. and, its a long shot, but maybe these guys wanna come back in free agency.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Best of both worlds. I think we'd all take that!

    I'd like to see at least one of them back but their best chance of doing that is to sign one of them before they hit free agency.

  • It's was never really about one plan or another for Theo and Co. It was always about having the option to do it any number of ways depending on how everything worked out. Injuries, performance trading partner preferences etc. We are already seeing the fruits of the strategy with the depth making the injuries easier to deal with.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    True, I don't think they'll ever put all their eggs in one basket. We can be pretty sure part of the original plan was to trade Garza -- or at least that was the best option that presented itself at the time.

    The Cubs are set up with a number of possibilities if both pitchers come back strong and healthy and it'll be interesting to see the opportunities that come because of it -- and how the front office will handle them.

  • Nice article John! I think making a decision on which one to keep is a little premature. It seems like if all things were equal, the team would follow their perceived plan and trade Garza, but considering the team we're talking about, I'd like to see if both get healthy this season.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks Toby.

    And oh yeah, it's definitely premature but I was thinking about this last night and how it's going to be interesting how these two pitchers seasons will unfold. Could be a key to their rebuilding progress this year.

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    I couldn't vote on this just yet because there are a few specific factors that come into play for me and depending on how they play out determines if I'd want to keep either or both long-term(or even through the deadline.

    1. Alberto Cabrera and Arodys Vizcaino....If these two develop they way we want/expect them too and establish themselves as future rotation pieces then were already 4 deep in young, power pitchers by the end of the year. Allows you to deal from a position of strength, not desperation.

    2. Are teams offering solid value for Garza and Baker? If yes, definitely pull the trigger on Garza, depending on what we get for Baker. If not, take your comp pick with Garza or sign him on a bargain, otherwise let him walk(this is option A if #1 happens). Baker sign on the Maholm deal and see where it goes, if he pitches well were in a great position.

    3. How are the trio of Wood, Villanueva, and Feldman doing. If 2 of 3 are kicking on all cylinders it makes it easier to trade Garza and Baker without falling apart like last year.

    My best hope is #1. Honestly, if Vizcaino and Cabrera blossom into rotation mainstays i'd have considered this season a success no matter what else happens. Developing your own TOR arms is that important right now.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Agreed. Lots of factors here and no doubt it's too early to tell, but I think these two pitchers are going to be a window as to the next step in the rebuild. I'll be watching to see what the Cubs decide with these 2 more than anyone else.

    Ideally you'd like to develop your own arms but that's a huge unknown for the Cubs. Vizcaino and/or Cabrera would have to have a huge (and healthy) year for the Cubs to count on them next season. I'd like to see the Cubs with at least 3 of those spots filled and to me, Baker and Garza have the best chance to give the Cubs that 3rd good starter.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. The only 2014 FA who fits the criteria is Phil Hughes. And he can't stay healthy + will probably be overpaid. Joba Chamberlain will be there if you feel he can be a starter and he still wants too but that's a huge gamble.

    If Garza was with another team he'd probably be our top target this off-season lol

  • Good pitching is very hard to come by. It's an injury-prone position, and prospect failure rates are extremely high. I think, ideally, when ready to compete, the team should have:

    1 ace signed to a monster contract
    2 or 3 proven veterans signed to fair (ie tradeable) contracts,
    1 or 2 signed to "make-good" 1 year deals,
    1 in arbitration
    cross your fingers that you win the lottery with a prospect or 2 (Vizcaino, Struck, etc).

    If prospects matriculate, you can trade off one of the fair contracts if the team has an excess of pitching.

    If Garza can be signed for something in the 4 year, 60mm range, I'm comfortable with that. If you can sign Baker to a 3 year/30mm deal, I'd also take that. Assuming that they are both demonstrating healthy arms in July.

    That gives you 3 guys (Garza, Jackson, Baker) making between 10-15mm/year signed through 2016. Those are tradeable contracts in the event that the Cubs sign an ace, and/or a couple of prospects make good.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    We do have to make a lot of assumptions here and you do a good job of pointing some of those out. I guess the question is more, if both pitchers are healthy and productive, whom do you keep and why?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Whichever one will sign for a 4 or 5 year contract with an AAV of 10-14mm :)

    I'm fine with signing pitchers to contracts that run to age 35 or 36, so Baker at 31 or Garza at 29 doesn't make much of a difference to me. When healthy, they are very similar:

    WHIP around 1.2
    BB/9 around 2
    SO/9 around 8
    ERA+ around 105

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    I like everything you note except for the part about the monster number one contract. The monster contract part is not always necessary. We shouldn't think there always has to be that big free agent with the accompanying monster contract. If your other thoughts about internal development come to fruition then we don't necessarily need to take such a risk. Just a thought. A dream maybe?

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    To be sure, big pitching contracts are usually horrible. Josh Beckett, Johan Santana, Lincecum, Zito, maybe even Halladay all were bad for the teams that signed them. Sabathia's 3.3 WAR doesn't exactly justify 25mm per year.

    It just seems to be that most pennant teams have a legit ace. Maybe Shark will become that for us. Here's to hoping!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    When you look at the top teams around the league just about all of them have a homegrown ace. Counting on FA to get an ace is just as risky, if not more, than trying to develop one on your own. Shark has all the tools to get there. Here's hoping as well.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    How old are Matt Cain and Madison Baumgarner? Both home-grown, I think M B is only 24. Cain just signed a big contract ahead of his FA, Im guessing hes about 28/29, so hes likely got 2-3 yrs as an effective starter stuff wise. Problem usually develops when you sign a guy whos 30 or older. Verlander will be the next example, will be 32 in 2015 when hes due for FA. Id leave him alone. For an example of how not to do it, Philly signing Cliff Lee was insane. 33yo finesse pitcher to a #1 starter contract?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mutant beast:

    Exactly. And as we can see Philly regrets that deal and has tried to get from out under it. Finding a young ace in FA is almost impossible. Most of them get locked up for all their prime years and hit FA past 30 when giving them a big contract is a terrible investment as history has shown us.

    That's why, as hard as developing your own front-line starters are, i'd still take my chances on that than try to overpay for one based on past success and get all his declining years.

    The Felix Hernandez contract is the gold standard. He's 26 and when the deal ends he'll be 33. They are paying strictly for his prime years, not 1-2 prime and 3-4 declining like most big contracts. They will get max value on that deal and we need something like that.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Also agree I stay far away from Verlander. He's going to want a huge deal and at his age that's the kind of investment that could sink a team.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    You don't *have* to have a traditional #1. Another way would be to stock up on 3-4 very good pitchers at the Garza level. There's a decent chance that one of them has the kind of year when they pitch out of their minds. Obviously you'd rather have someone you can count on every year, but the alternative is to have a couple of options on the assumption that someone will have the hot hand at the right time.

  • Baker...I say ride him out and see how he does this year. Garza...if the Cubs brass doesn't think these injuries are long-term, maybe now is the time to approach Garza with a EJAX extension, making him ours for the next 5 years @ 62.25 million. Give him that 8 million dollar signing bonus and 10.25 million this year with 11 mil per the four years after that. I feel Garza may strongly consider taking that extension given these injuries...he may be a little worried that playing this thing out is the wrong move and choose financial security. Plus, I really think he like it here and the direction of the club.

  • In reply to apalifer:

    I think this sounds like a pretty good plan all-around.

  • I like keeping either but Baker probably fits better financially.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Totally agree there and that has to factor in the decision.

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    Question: What is the likelihood that Garza and Baker really want to re-sign with the Cubs?

    For both of them, if I am their agent, I am advising them to reestablish health and see where we stand. This should take until at least the trading deadline for both. Baker's contract was clearly a "Pillow" deal, and Garza is basically in "show-me" mode.

    Aside from the health and money factors, Garza seems to like it here, and has expressed interest in staying. Baker, IIRC, stated that Cubs helping him re-hab is a factor in deciding to resign, though that type of statement is easy to make while the ink is still drying on his contract.

    Just wonder if there are other perspectives here

  • In reply to Zonk:

    It does seem like everyone is assuming that new TV money will lead to hyper contract inflation. So perhaps the agents will be less likely to accept the 4 years at 12 or 15mm per year type of deal. They may believe the new paradigm will set market rates at 20mm per year or so.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I do agree no decision will be made until the trade deadline. It benefits all parties to take a wait and see approach at this point.

  • If they are 9 or more games out of a playoff spot by the end of
    July, I would trade any veterans I can for any good prospect.s

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Their position in the standings will certainly play a big factor

  • I think it is all about having options and Theo has done a good job giving the Cubs options. Marcel did a great job listing the options above. I also would like to see his option #1 come to fruition. But if it doesn't happen Theo can do a number of things to help the Cubs build its pitching quality and depth. It is nice to have smart FO people.

  • In reply to John57:

    Options are the key and the Cubs will likely get a better feel for what those are at the deadline. The most interesting scenario is if both pitchers are healthy and pitching well at the deadline. I'd still like to see the Cubs keep one unless they get a great offer for both.

  • I would definitely hold onto Baker and see how he rebounds from TJ. Garza is another story, I hated that trade in the first place and he just seems to be physically breaking down. It will probably be late May before he pitches again and hopefully he puts those injuries in the rear view mirror.
    Don't forget his mental makeup is also questionable. Ever since that almost no-hitter, he developed a case of the yips and has had problems simply throwing to first. It makes me wonder if last years injury crept into his head this spring and bam he hurt again.
    The problem is I'm not sure what you would get for Garza now, so if the Cubs can sign him to a team friendly or make-good contract, we might as well keep him.
    Just like Stewart, I think we are stuck with Garza for better or worse!
    BTW-Randal Delgado has been knocked around early this spring pitching for the D'backs. We may have gotten lucky with the Dempster trade veto. Way to early to tell, yet he looks a little lost so far and they were hoping he would compete for the 5th spot in their rotation.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    The recent injuries and the uncertainty over Garza's health have made that trade look worse recently -- though I agree it was ill-timed to begin with.

    It certainly does look like the Cubs are stuck with Garza for now. Hopefully it works out for the better.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    Delgado cant go down powder river very well. Needs to be ahead in the count to get to his C/U. Like every other finesse pitcher. Im not all that sorry(yet) that the Cubs got Vizciano rather than Delgado. Remember Micah Bowie?

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    With the April schedule not being the easiest of schedules and injuries to two of our best pitchers, it is very possible we see an ugly start to the season. I still think the big picture here is the minor league guys, not the major league roster. Obviously we need to see the "core" evolve more and develop, but the minor league system is still the number one priority.

    Also just watched Almora pop/fly out on MLBtv. That was the best fly ball I have ever seen! (Optimism rising!)

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Haha! Now that is true optimism.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    I preferred Baezs "flyball" in his 2nd AB.

  • I like the idea of re-signing Baker after the season, but I think it's too early to tell what they should do with Garza.

    If Garza is able to recover quickly and pitch well, and there are good offers on the table, they should deal him. But if injuries and all the time off prevent him from putting together a good year, they ought to hold onto him for the season and present him a QO. If he takes the QO and rebounds, he's a trade chip in 2014; if he doesn't, they get the comp pick.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    That could well be what the Cubs are thinking here. Hopefully it's that first scenario!

  • The Cubs are set up with a number of possibilities as noted by Marcel & John above. But I think it goes even deeper. How guys like McNutt, Loux, Blackburn, etc are developing. If we struggle and trade away 2-3 SP's by the deadline, what would our top 7 SP's look like next ST? Can we count on any from Vizcaino/Cabrera/Rusin/Raley/Loux/McNutt/Blackburn/etc.. to step into the top 7 SP's? Will we be forced to over-pay in FA for depth? What might be available in FA next year, etc...

    Ultimately, Epstoyer will do what fits our long term plan the best. Look at the way they jumped on Feldman/Baker/Villanueva before prices went sky high for SP. It's nice to finally have options.

    If Baker &/or Garza prove themselves to be healthy & able, and a trade partner offers value to us, we take it. It could very well turn out to be that we keep both and flip Feldman/Wood/Villanueva, etc... Who cares as long as we get better for 2014..........

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I feel the same way. I'd like to keep at least one of them barring a great offer for both. You can't pass up the long term value if it presents itself.

    Without a good offer, letting them go just seems like running in place. I'd like to keep building on that staff and not have to start all over with free agents year after year. You have to start finding some keepers, in my opinion, if you're going to get to the next level. You need that mix of vets and prospects -- at least early on until the Cubs prospect pool gets a little deeper.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    forgot to mention Rondon as well. He may be a candidate to convert to SP after this season.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    His stuff seems to play better in the BP. One of these pitchers who seems to lose velocity after about 45 pitches or so. One of the Indians former scouts said last week he tried to convince the Tribe to convert him to relief in 2008, but they saw him as a SP.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    He might. There are those that think Cabrera, McNutt, and Vizcaino fit better in a relief role too. But there are also those who think they are SP candidates. I'm not predicting anything for any of them. Just saying that if 1 or 2 of them project as a viable SP for 2014 and beyond, it changes our preferences for re-signing/trading any of Garza/Baker/Feldman/Wood/Villanueva.

  • Baker was a quality pitcher in Minnesota. Hes worth keeping for a 2 yr contract if hes healthy and productive, much like Maholm was before we traded him. We really need to keep 6-7 decent starters in the next 2 yrs, so both Baker and Garza are worth keeping, providing Garza doesn't want the moon. He better get healthy soon, since few teams are willing to try out a pitcher who is developing arm problems at the height of his career.

  • Jed Hoyer was just on Sirius with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern. I missed the beginning, but he was raving about Baez and Soler when I tuned it. Approach to the game, advanced skills, etc. He said Baez will probably be at Daytona. Didn't say about Soler.

    Bowden asked him about Soriano trade rumors. Hoyer said it's about getting younger. Nothing against Sori. He's a great clubhouse guy and he's been working hard on defense. Contract not an issue either.

    They talked about the draft as well. Hoyer said no one is standing out yet as the top guy or top 1-2 guys. He and Theo will scout some of the draft prospects personally. They know this is a big pick and they can't mess it up. Bowden had a follow up about stockpiling pitching. Hoyer mentioned last year that they took Almora 1st and then all pitching for awhile. He said look for something similar. I'm not sure if that meant position player first or just pitching heavy throughout.

    He mentioned the Cardinals as the model franchise and he welcomes having the inter-division rivalry as the team gets better. Sort of like Red Sox had with Yankees.

    Darwin Barney on now. Nothing too interesting from him yet.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    Thanks for sharing. Baez and Soler don't seem to be over matched in their first big league camp. Which is a great sign. Haven't see enough from Soler to over take Baez as #1 prospect yet, but they are definitely 1 & 1A.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    Thanks Ratmoss!

  • So this is probably a little bit redundant by now, but I have to think that if both of them agree to sign a contract at a reasonable value, you keep both of them. I feel like the price of pitching has skyrocketed lately with no signs of slowing up (side note: a look at cost trends by position over the past 5 years would be fascinating to see. Article reco?).

    I know this sort of kills these guessing games, but my personal opinion is at this stage for the Cubs, it goes like this:

    1 - If a player has 4-5 good years left and is signed at a reasonable value: keep him
    2 - If you receive noticeable surplus value for the player in situation 1, trade him anyway
    2 - If a player does not fit the criteria of situation 1, trade him if the right price comes along

    This is sort of the strategy regardless of player, no?

  • In reply to mosconml:

    Yes, no one is "untouchable" given the right offer....

  • In reply to mosconml:

    Those are specific circumstances though, there is plenty of gray area in between. What if you get equal value, for example, -- which would mean a lesser prospect. Do you take a chance on the prospect or do you try to build an MLB rotation with one of the guys you have?

    What is equal value for Scott Baker, for example, at this stage, considering he'll have two months of what will likely be limited innings? Is that worth giving him up? Seems like selling low. Even surplus value for that kind of pitcher can be selling low if you think you can re-sign him and he can add value later, whether that's value to current team or long term value.

  • I voted to trade both. I think the Phillies have the blueprint for building a contender and the Cubs are set up in a similar situation. The Phillies developed most of their position players like Howard, Rollins, Utley and Victorino. The also had Hamels come up through their system, but they went out and got Halladay and Cliff Lee. I'm all for the Cubs trying to develop pitching and am hopeful that they are able to do so, but in order to become a consistent winner they need more than one #1 starter. I feel good about their future hitting with core pieces like Castro, Rizzo, Baez, Soler, Almora, but I feel like it is such a gamble trying to develop those #1 starters. They've already committed money to Edwin Jackson and I'm fine with that as he is a workhorse. But let's face it, he's probably a #4 on a World Series contender. I think we need to hope Samardzjia becomes that Cole Hamels and I think the Cubs still will need to go out and get a couple #1 starters. The thing is they need to get those signings right. The need to get as close to can't miss aces as they can get. David Price comes to mind as one... Had hoped Matt Cain would go to free agency as the other.

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    In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    what would you give up for Lincecum? Anything?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I've never been a big Lincecum fan even before last year. Small pitchers scare me. They tend to get hurt easily. You run that risk with the big guys too, but at least that have a body that is better built for 200+ innings. James Shields is another guy I like as he is also a workhorse.

  • I think I mentioned this in one of your other articles, but I think Baker's the type of guy you'd like to extend. I'd agree coming off of TJ probably won't yield as much of a return unless he has a stellar year. So the hope is he performs well enough to get an extension and he'll probably be cheaper than Garza as well.

    Prior to the injury I was hoping we'd be able to deal Garza while keeping Baker. Simply because I thought we'd be able to get more of a return with Garza and Baker is kind of young enough to be a mid-rotation mainstay. Where we'd get a return similar to Maholm with Baker, we'd likely get more with Garza though with the injury I guess you can debate that (though I still tend to think he'd yield something a bit more than Dempster did).

  • I'm with the rest of the gang. Just have to wait and see. Part of the decision whether to keep one or both of these pitchers should hinge on how quickly the Cubs' superstar caliber prospects are progressing through the minors. If they aren't coming fast, it might be best to sell off again even at less than full value and try and get more talent to arrive simultaneously.

  • Why do you guys keep saying the Cubs won't have anything in the minors that project for the rotation in 2014. They are starting to aquire some good arms, you never know when the light goes on for guys and they develop. Nick Struck looked pretty darn good to me yesterday. (Any idea what his velocity was?) Rondon has tremendous upside, extremely talented arm. Travis Wood could wind up being a stud. Some guys will come on and stun you.

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    "Travis Wood could wind up being a stud."

    No. Just, no. That ship has sailed.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Give up on just turned 26 year old lefthanders who throw 92 mph, at your own peril. He has looked like a different pitcher this spring from last.

  • Exactly! No sense in giving up on Wood yet.

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    not giving up on him, in fact I'm feeling a lot better about that trade now than when it was made. But to call him a closet stud? reaching.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    A person's sexuality is their personal business.

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    ok, we're all cub fans, so let's do something we're all too familiar with: wishful thinking.
    It's mid may, the 5 healthy starters (shark, jackson, wood, feldman, villanueva) are pitching lights out, the cubs are 21-14. Garza and Baker are both ready to pitch. It isn't mid june, no other team is strongly looking for a starting pitcher yet. what do they do? Add to that: Marmol is 12 for 12 in saves, Fujikawa hasn't closed a game, but the Tigers are calling. What now?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Feldman and Villanueva go to the 'pen and you see what Detroit offers for Marmol.

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    and whose spots do feldman and villanueva take?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Whoever the long men are at that point.

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    my point is, we're assuming the decision on which way this team is going will be made in late june. what if circumstances force you to make that judgement earlier? What if detroit makes a good offer for Marmol. But you're 21-14 and may need a closer yourself for the rest of the season.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Even if the Cubs start the season 21-14 Marmol is not an elite closer. He can be replaced.

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