We were going to write to pay our respects to a good pitcher and a great teammate, Matt Garza, as he should've sailed off into the sunset of Cubdom and towards a new destination/team by now, or so we thought. With Garza in trade talk limbo, we present this as both a tribute and a timeline of events related to the trade rumors and to be updated later on if it turns out he does change uniforms. Sure, we could've sliced this into a billion salami posts for the hitz, but it's a bit better this way so you can see the whole story as it unfolded. Plus we again get to honor what we perceived to be a good Cub on and off the field. And plus I had originally thought this would be an easy trade and it would've happened like a week ago, but there's always something...anyway, we've passed the point of no return and so you get this monster post! Whee!
We were all set to write about Matt Garza's departure to parts unknown when this happened:
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 8, 2013
This could have very well been gamesmanship on the side of the Cubs front office to see if they could increase the desperation factor for the contenders who would have been in on Garza. Indeed, that was the thought of many on the Twitters:
No teeth to reported extension talks w/ garza. Covering-bases conversation went nowhere. He'll be traded.
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) July 8, 2013
When this Jon Heyman story posted on June 28, it was pretty apparent that Cubs pitcher and all-around cool guy Matt Garza was as good as gone.
Folks who have talked to the Cubs say they are determined that Garza will surely go for two reasons.
First: Cubs people are taking a very realistic approach to their team and understand they aren't a contender especially in the formidable NL Central. Second: they realized a while ago that there's no long-term deal to be made with the free-agent-to-be Garza. In fact, Cubs brass realized this as far back as two springs ago when multiyear talks never got traction.
Heyman followed that up with another story, pretty much extinguishing all hope for an extension:
Garza on notice he'll likely go after extension not agreed to. many in mix: tex, bos, cle, stl, etc. http://t.co/ACbypD2zMY
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 14, 2013
This is a bummer for various reasons, particularly because Matt Garza is such a good teammate, helps to foster a fun clubhouse environment, and just makes the game so much more fun with his antics and his on-field production--although his fielding leaves a lot to be desired.
While his fielding and his bat were pretty terrible Matt Garza was a solid-to-superb pitcher in his time with the Cubs. In addition to his expected improvement from the tough-as-nails American League East to the National League Central, Garza reinvented himself from an extreme flyball pitcher to a more ground-ball based pitcher (h/t FanGraphs). Garza's strikeouts improved, as expected since he got to face opposing pitchers in the box, but more importantly, his control improved marginally as he walked slightly less per 9 innings pitched while maintaining a BB% around 7-8%. Despite moving from a cavern (Tropicana Field) to a hitter's paradise (Wrigley Field), Garza's home run rate didn't actually suffer, possibly because he got more balls in play to hit the ground. As a result, despite the Cubs having given up a king's ransom for Garza while Jim Hendry was in charge (remember Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee?), the Cubs under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were hoping to nearly duplicate that trade when they set up a deal to send Garza off to his new destination.
#Dodgers would absorb Nolasco’s remaining salary, about $5.5M. Nolasco potential free agent from SoCal. Eventually could sign beyond 2013.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 6, 2013
It seemed that having to give up actual prospects for Garza was too much for the Dodgers to stomach, so here we are...then again, Garza immediately became the most coveted pitching trade chip on the market, so thanks Dodgers and Nolasco! Seriously, look at the return, this is a crappy trade for the Fish (they even threw in some international slot money for the Dodgers!)...
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) July 7, 2013
Phil Rogers is good for stating the obvious as he does here:
— Phil Rogers (@ChiTribRogers) July 7, 2013
There were multiple reports suggesting any number of contenders would be interested in Garza, or that he might even be included in a move for more international slot money. Dave Kaplan, after Garza's strong starts against the White Sox and the Cardinals in July, heard that the trade would likely happen over the All-Star Break or soon afterwards. Tom Loxas from Cubs Den was reasonably certain that the frontrunner would be the Texas Rangers, corroborating what the other national writers were speculating.
It turns out that Tom and John at Cubs Den were at least sort of right all along, as various Texas Rangers prospects such as Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards and Luke Jackson were floated as potential returns for Garza on Thursday night. Edwards is particularly interesting because he literally has not given up a professional home run yet in his short career through over 160 innings pitched. Jackson hasn't fared quite as well but still has some intriguing peripherals, seemingly having figured something out at Myrtle Beach albeit with slight control/command issues. Olt is still an interesting name, though he has slipped a bit with the bat and is striking out at a Brett Jackson-esque rate. The Cubs kept holding out as long as they could to see if "Mystery Team" would jump in. However, the Rangers got a little nervous and decided on a Plan B that seemed to center around Bud Norris:
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 19, 2013
Bud Norris is slightly younger than Garza and doesn't have as good of a track record so this reeked of some weak posturing by the Rangers. If the Rangers, having a relatively shaky rotation at the moment, wanted to compete in 2013, they need Garza, not Norris, who is not as good although he can be controlled for a couple more seasons. It helped the Cubs in a way that this happened:
Buchholz experiences another setback http://t.co/SdSD1QV1NQ
— Gordon Edes (@GordonEdes) July 19, 2013
Clay Buchholz being delayed may have given the Cubs a Plan B of their own, which could allow them to counter-posture against the Rangers. Despite the gaudy ERA numbers, I believe the Red Sox have a decent rotation already and don't really need an upgrade even though they had been mentioned in Garza trade rumors. The Rangers also have a decent rotation that may be momentarily disrupted with Yu Darvish's minor injury and with the replacements for Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison being very disappointing thus far. So ultimately I thought that they would prefer having a more solid pitcher in Garza than using Norris as a stopgap, especially when Martin Perez seemed to be pitching capably in his call-up. As of Friday:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 19, 2013
It appeared that the Bud Norris talk was a smokescreen and likely a posturing move. In fact, the latest stories didn't even bother to mention the Bud Norris or Plan B stuff, suggesting that nobody took that seriously. Matt Garza was having a bit of fun with it anyway:
You do have to note that even with Matt Garza being the best available pitcher on the market, and a pretty good one at that, the trade return was always going to be underwhelming as Buster Olney tells us here (don't bother paying, it's pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention):
Today's column. http://t.co/m3jzwYFxOX Why the Cubs' return for Matt Garza won't be as much as you might've expected in past years.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 19, 2013
At approximately 1 PM Friday, we heard that medicals were being reviewed and that six players were involved. As Dabynsky pointed out to me, this doesn't necessarily mean six players were switching places, but that six players were being discussed, but that's Twitter for ya.
Matt Garza (Fresno St) trade from Cubs to Rangers is "99 percent done." Teams going over medical records now. 6 players in the mix
— Joe Davidson (@SacBee_JoeD) July 19, 2013
By that point, it appeared that Boston had backed off of Garza and turned their attention to Norris, suggesting that Texas had the inside track. This was our clue that the trade was imminent; once medicals were exchanged, it was just a matter of time assuming there were no complications. Unfortunately, there WERE complications as it appeared that there was a Texas player with bad medicals, and then new "mystery teams" came back into play, while Jake Peavy came back from the disabled list and was being scouted as a Plan A/B/C, and we had to wait it out some more. Such is the folly of trade season. Problem was, the Rangers kept dragging their feet, the Cubs still (logically) wanted the world for Garza, and so we are at a stalemate. As of Sunday afternoon:
Sveum says "100 percent" Garza pitching Monday. — Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) July 21, 2013
We also hear from the Cubs Den folks (seriously, follow those guys!) that the Pirates are now in, and various other teams could still be in with less than two weeks to go before July 31st. Competition is good and this should help the Cubs ensure a strong trade return. As of now, various contenders such as the Nationals, the Braves and the aforementioned Rangers are having trouble with their pitching, so desperation factor may increase shortly.
The haul this time around will probably not be as good as when Garza was first traded by the Rays to the Cubs (along with Zach Rosscup and Fernando Perez) for Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos and Mauricio's man-crush, Chris Archer. However, it should still be fairly close to what Milwaukee got when they traded Zack Greinke to Anaheim for, among others, All-Star Jean Segura. The fact that two of the best GMs in baseball (Jed Hoyer and Jon Daniels of Texas) tussled for leverage for so long was simultaneously frustrating and fascinating, as we got to witness (secondhand) the anatomy of a trade which for all intents and purposes should benefit both parties, but we hope it'll work out eventually. While we are sad that Matt Garza is probably moving on, we understand that the game of baseball is a business and that the Cubs need the infusion in the farm more so than they need him as a rotation mainstay at this point. Perhaps if many circumstances were different, Garza could have ended his career as a Cub, but alas, it was not meant to be. I had hoped that maybe Matt Garza could be given an extension, but the Cubs have been trying to trade him since last year (the injury was ill-timed) and this trade was inevitable. For his part, Garza was a true professional, going out to eat innings and pitch well to give the Cubs every chance they could to win games while always being a great cheerleader. For those of you who don't follow him on Twitter, every night after the Cubs won, he would post this: Even when he was injured or rehabbing or not pitching, that would be the expected tweet. Here's a pre-trade update from ESPN Chicago:
There was something very sad about the way the impromptu interview was conducted, possibly when Bruce Levine bumped into Garza at the airport on their way to Denver Friday morning. While it's possible that Garza was coached to say what he did, the story was presented in such a way that suggested Garza really wanted to stay with a good group of players who were heading in the right direction, but couldn't find a common ground to make it happen. Like many players before him, he wanted to be a Cub and stay a Cub and I think that's admirable and heartwarming as a fan to see.
Matt Garza was everything a fan would want in a Cub. He was approachable, always with a positive attitude, always standing up for his teammates, and even responsible for helping me get a free Qdoba burrito by getting the only base hit in the fifth inning. He was a big hit with his teammates and they too wished he would stay. He also had that IDGAF attitude that sometimes irks fans, but that I just adore, especially when he displayed it in one of his last starts as a Cub:
Garza made a grand entrance, delaying the game briefly in the first as he walked from the bullpen to the dugout.
"They gave me 20 minutes to get loose," Garza said. "If anything, that's their fault. They ran in at 7:15 to tell us they're starting at 7:30. We had to argue to say, 'That's not enough time to get loose.' I'm not going to mess up my system because they want to rush me to the mound in a makeup game. It's not like it was Game 7 and we'd been delayed three or four times."
We wish Matt Garza the best in his new digs, and wouldn't be surprised at all if he made it to the World Series again. We also wouldn't be surprised if he randomly tweeted the win flag if the Cubs manage to win without him. Stay tuned, kids.