With the current hot stretch the Chicago Cubs have been in, many fans are getting starry eyed and believing that this team is much closer to contending than originally thought this year. The Cubs have climbed the mountain and have brought themselves to only eight games under .500 and nine games out of the second wild card. They see the starting pitching and the offense picking up and playing better than they have all season, and feel that the team is finally waking up and ready to make the charge to the playoffs. They see the run the Cubs have been on, and they do not want the Cubs to make any trades to break apart the team.
That causes a problem when looking at Matt Garza and how he has performed this year since coming back from the disabled list. He has dazzled, and has fans clamoring for the team to keep him. They would rather see him re-signed than traded. I would have no problem if they decided to extend him, but if they are unable to extend him before the July 31st trade deadline, he must be moved. You do not want to risk losing him for nothing. Granted, the Cubs can always offer him the one year qualifying offer which is just north of $13 Million, but he is likely to turn that down as he eyes a bigger deal in his first year of free agency. Turning that offer down will give the Cubs a compensatory draft pick, which is well under value for Garza.
The same can be said for the rest of the Cubs clan who is rumored to be on the trading block. Nate Schierholtz, Kevin Gregg, Alfonso Soriano and Dioner Navarro have also been floated around as potential trade chips that could bring back a couple of prospects. All of these players have contributed to the Cubs recent winning ways, and helped to put optimism back into the Cubs hearts and stars in their eyes. Fans do not want to see this team broken up when they have been playing as well as they have. They want to ride this wave of momentum to the end and see where the season winds up.
That brings up a great question. Is keeping Garza and the rest of the team in tact for the stretch run worth while? If they do not stay as hot as they are during the current stretch and finish .500, or fall short of that mark, was giving up the possibility acquiring stud prospects worth finishing with a couple of extra wins? I cannot see that being a good thing.
What good is finishing .500 in a rebuilding effort? Not only do you get a worse draft pick slot, but if you keep Garza for the season and are unable to re-sign him, you also lose out on the return. You will get a sandwich pick who likely will not be as good as the number of prospects you get for him in a trade.
Schierholtz and Gregg are also on that list of question marks. They have good value right now, and have done everything the Cubs have asked of them to get that value. They were each signed to a one year deal in hopes they could generate value to entice a team into trading for them. Both have done a marvelous job this year, surprising everyone. Fans want to keep both, but do you know if they will keep up this play for the rest of the year?
Do you remember how bad Gregg was the last time he was with the Cubs? He was booed out of town with as bad as he did, and replaced by Carlos Marmol. Ironically, Gregg then replaced Marmol this year. At any rate, Gregg is likely to turn back into a pumpkin at some point, and the Cubs would be wise to trade him while he has value.
Schierholtz on the other hand, has also been a surprise, but one that the Cubs might be willing to keep. Unlike Gregg or Garza he has one year of arbitration left, and can be brought back fairly cheap. The only question with him, is can he repeat what he has done this year. He has played far better than he has at any other point in his career, mainly due to the platoon system Dale Sveum has put him in. Keeping him out of the lineup when there is a left handed pitcher on the mound has inflated his stats, making him look far more attractive than he may actually be. If he is kept around next year, and remains in the platoon system, he could be a nice hold over. I would have no problem keeping him around, if the return on any trade proposal is not worthwhile. You likely will not get a lot back for him, but perhaps will get an enticing offer of a player who they feel will be more valuable in the long run than Schierholtz is.
This current run with the Cubs has been a lot of fun, and I have enjoyed every victory that has come during these past two weeks. But you need to remember one thing when deciding if the Cubs should continue to make trades. No team is ever as good as they look when playing their best, nor are they as bad when they are playing their worst. The Cubs, if they keep everyone, will likely finish around .500. They likely will not finish with a record good enough to make the playoffs. That is unfortunately a pipe dream. Taking the current run into consideration, the decision to trade Garza, or anyone else on the team should come down to one major factor. If you feel these free agent to be players are guys that need to be kept to ensure a successful 2014 season, how confident are you that they will be able to make a deal to bring them back? If the Cubs fall short of the ultimate goal this year, are you willing to lose them for nothing without having any regrets?
The fan would say yes, that the more wins a team gets the better. That you should worry about next year, next year because the only championship you can win this year is this years championship. But the General Manager has to look at the bigger picture and calculate the odds and base his decisions on that. If they feel that the hill is too great to overcome and they will not make the playoffs, they turn their attention to the players who are valuable in trades and the likelihood of re-signing them. If the value is high, the team is realistically out of contention and the odds of re-signing them are low, whether you agree with the move or not, trading him is the right decision.
Trading a pitcher like Garza will not be popular, but calculating the odds, doing so may very well be the right move.