Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The cost of Matt Garza

The Sun-Times is reporting that the Cubs are the leaders in efforts to pry Matt Garza away from Tampa Bay.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…I don’t see Tampa Bay trading Matt Garza in the near future. I’m going to make the statement that the excitement the press is trying to generate for this trade is more out of boredom than anything else.

But let’s say that the Cubs do indeed trade for Matt Garza…what will they have to give up?

Well, first off, we must remove the idea that the Rays will take Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva or Alfonso Soriano off our hands. The Rays have spent most of the off-season positioning themselves to have a younger and more affordable team. None of those three players, who the Cubs would love to dish off to someone else, would even remotely be of interest to the Rays.

So with that said, the Rays are going to want prospects…and to go along with their currently trend this year, at least a couple of prospects in a theoretical Garza trade would need to be near Major League ready.

Who fits that bill? Well, quite frankly, I’d say that the Cubs have two players in their system that would be the most appropriate fit and that would be Brett Jackson and Chris Archer. These two players are also arguably the Cubs top two prospects anyway. Would the Cubs be willing to give away both of these players for a very good pitcher?

Garza’s numbers suggest that he is a player with very good stuff but appears to be, at times, inconsistent. It would seem to be a mistake to trade the system’s two best prospects for this kid. So let’s assume that the Cubs are only willing to trade one of those two players. I believe the choice will be Chris Archer. Why? Well, the Cubs will probably have a larger need for outfielders in the near future than they will for a starting pitcher. That seems a bit backwards, but it’s probably the truth.

Of course this could never be a straight up trade…the Cubs will need to add a couple of other lesser prospects in the deal. The Cubs currently also have a couple of middle infielder prospects, one of which they could probably deal away. Who? Hak Ju Lee and Darwin Barney. I’m not all that high on Barney but he was on the Major League roster last year and probably will be this year as well. Lee is still a few years off from making it to the big leagues, but most people think he projects very high. How high? Well, some people have said that the Cubs might consider moving Starlin Castro over to 2nd base to make room for Lee. My hope would be that the Cubs could get the Rays to take Barney.

It will probably take at least one more player to get this deal done...a middle to low range prospect. Any speculation on who that would be would be pointless…it could be any number of players in the Cubs system right now.

Is it worth it? Well, what does Garza give us? Would he be the ace of the staff? Probably not. Zambrano and Dempster are probably superior pitchers…but it’s hard to say as Garza moves into a different league. Garza is also much more of a fly ball pitcher than most of the Cubs currently are. The general rule has been that fly ball pitchers are bad in Chicago, but Ted Lilly proved that you can still succeed trending that way.

Then we also have to look at who Garza will be replacing. Dempster and Zambrano are locks on the pitching staff. Wells has been adequate as a starter the last two years. Silva continues to be a health concern, but has been adequate when he was on the mound for the Cubs last year. Since the Cubs seem so hell-bent on giving Andrew Cashner a shot at the rotation (and Marshall, Gorzelanny, Diamond, Coleman, Samardzija available in the #5 spot as well), it would seem that either Wells or Silva would have to go to the bullpen. In the end, I think it is questionable whether Garza is a significant upgrade over either of these two pitchers.

I’m hoping the Cubs don’t make this trade.