Before the Chicago Cubs traded relief pitcher Sean Marshall, the direction of the team for the 2012 season had not been determined. That uncertainty showed in the form of the starting pitcher Matt Garza. One week Garza was viewed as likely to be traded during the winter, and the following week Garza would appear to be a long-term fixture in the Cubs’ rotation. This winter we have seen a plethora of starting pitcher trades. Between the Trevor Cahill trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Mat Latos being traded to the Reds, and Gio Gonzalez being traded to the Washington Nationals; the time would seem to be perfect for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to unload their best starting pitcher for a haul of prospects.
The Marshall trade figures to solidify the Cubs as bona-fide sellers this winter as the team prepares to contend for the 2013 season while rebuilding during the 2012 season. Operating under that train of thought would make it likely that Garza is dealt at some point before the July 31 trade deadline. But with the amount of prospects teams are willing to part with in trades for top-tier starting pitchers, there may be no better time than now for the Cubs to trade Garza.
With teams losing out on Latos, Gonzalez, and Japanese starting pitcher Yu Darvish; the chances remain strong that interest in Garza will pick up over the course of the next couple of weeks. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blues Jays, and Miami Marlins are all teams that are interested in improving their starting pitching depth. Ironically, the Cubs also remain intent on improving their starting pitching depth before catchers and pitchers have to report to Spring Training in February. Even though Garza is considered to be the Cubs’ best starting pitcher, the Cubs are still in position where they can improve their starting pitching depth in spite of the fact that they would be trading Garza in the process.
According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, the Toronto Blue Jays may be the best match-up for the Cubs in any prospective Garza trade. It has been fairly evident this winter that Blue Jays have been looking for a starting pitcher. Before the Texas Rangers won the bidding for Darvish, it was widely believed that the Blue Jays were the team that were going to hold the rights to Darvish; and the Blue Jays also remained in discussions with the San Diego Padres about Latos before the Padres dealt him to the Reds. Having lost out on Darvish, Latos, and seemingly Gonzalez the Blue Jays remain in the hunt for a top tier starting pitcher. Considering the Blue Jays have always been an after thought in the American League East division to the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and most recently the Tampa Bay Rays; the Jays appear to be looking for a pitcher that can put the Jays on the same level as those three teams. Having witnessed Garza while he was with the Rays, the Jays may prefer the Cubs’ starting pitcher over any other available option due to his familiarity with the American League East.
According to Levine’s report, the focal point of the Blue Jays’ package for Garza will be the Jays’ 2010 first round pick Deck McGuire. McGuire posted a record of 9-5 in his first professional season, posting an ERA of 3.02 with a WHIP 1.22 while pitching for three separate levels within the Jays’ farm system. In addition to McGuire, Levine mentions that the Cubs will also inquire on Justin Nicolino and Jake Marisnick. Nicolino is a left handed pitcher that was the Jays’ second round pick in the 2010 draft. While spending his first professional season with both class A and class lower A, Nicolino posted a record of 6-2 to go along with an ERA of 1.33. As for Marisnick, an outfielder who was the Blues Jays third round pick in the 2009 draft, he has posted a line of .320/.392/.496/.888 with 18 home runs to go along with 103 RBIs and 47 doubles.
The Cubs are clearly aiming high in any potential Garza trade, but the recent starting pitching trades likely will benefit the Cubs’ high demands for Garza. If the Cubs wind up retaining Garza, then it becomes a real possibility that Garza will receive a contract extension similar to the one that John Danks was rewarded with by the Chicago White Sox. Danks signed a five year, $65 million extension with the White Sox last week. Having said that, it still seems likely to be that Garza will be traded before Opening Day.