The first roster-related move by president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer may be the most controversial one. Around the same time last year, the Cubs were first mentioned as a potential trading partner for Tampa Bay Rays in their efforts to trade starting pitcher Matt Garza. Former general manager Jim Hendry broke ground with negotiations with the Rays at the winter meetings, and those conversations resulted in Garza being traded to the Cubs last January. After having a career year in his first year with the Cubs, Garza’s trade value may be at an all-time high. Higher than when the Rays originally put the starting pitcher on the trading block last winter. For the second straight season, Garza has found himself on the trading block and recent reports suggest he is likely to be traded. A potential trade could materialize as early as next week.
The belief going around most baseball circles is that Epstein and Hoyer are willing to take offers for any player on the Cubs’ roster. From those reports, rumors started to suggest that Garza would be one player teams would zero in on. All indications point to that being the case. As of today, it is believed that the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, and New York Mets have expressed interest in Garza. Behind C.J. Wilson, there are not a lot of impact starting pitchers on the free agent market. While Garza may have been lost in the National League, with Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay getting most of the attention, had the Cubs been more relevant in 2011; Garza would have been a logical Cy Young candidate. Garza won a team-high 10 games in 2o11 and posted an ERA of 3.32 with a WHIP of 1.26 and batting average against of .245.
The idea of trading Garza has always baffled me. While the Cubs are the perceived winners from when they traded for Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays last winter, the Cubs still depleted their farm system of top prospects by giving up pitcher Chris Archer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, and outfielder Brandon Guyer. Initially Garza was viewed as someone who could become the long-term ace of the Cubs’ starting rotation. With the Cubs rotation taking a step back in 2011, Garza may have been the rare bright spot in the Cubs’ rotation heading into the 2012 season. This would be why the idea of the Cubs’ trading their best starting pitcher–in an off-season where they are looking to improve their starting rotation–seemed counterproductive.
However, that is not the case at all. On the surface, trading Garza would appear to be a step-back for not only the rotation but the team in general for the 2012 season. Given the amount of teams that are interested in Garza, and where his trade value is at, the Cubs are in a position to receive a quality package of top prospects in any trade that they make involving the 27 year old starting pitcher. Especially with the Rangers and Yankees being interested. The Yankees possess top pitching prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos and the Rangers have a top pitching prospect of their own in the form of Martin Perez. That would be one key to any Garza deal, the Cubs’ front office needs to ensure that they receive a top starting pitching prospect that is on the cusp of being major league ready.
As of this point, the Texas Rangers may be the front-runners to land Garza. Remember last winter the Rangers were on the cusp of acquiring Garza before the Cubs entered the picture at the last minute. The Rangers had serious interest in Garza in order to replace then free agent Cliff Lee in their rotation. Now, the Rangers could be looking at Garza to replace free agent C.J. Wilson in their rotation. Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago also suggests that Rangers are among the favorites for Garza, and left handed first baseman Mitch Moreland could be a part of the package being sent to the Cubs. Moreland is a promising left handed power hitting first baseman that played a major role in the Rangers’ run to the World Series in 2010. Moreland struggled in 2011, hitting .259/.320/.414/.734 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs. Moreland would not be the centerpiece of a potential Garza trade, but would be one player that the Cubs’ front office may have an eye on.
The chances seems increasingly likely that Garza will be traded this winter. Tom Loxas of Cubs Insider–who has hit on pretty much everything this off-season–is hearing that the Cubs are likely to deal Garza at the winter meetings next week. If that is the case, the Cubs holiday season will certainly kick off with a bang.