Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

A week after it was first discussed here, the possibility of a Matt Garza trade this Winter is picking up steam.

Among the chatter:

  • Buster Olney says that “[o]ther clubs have a clear belief that Cubs are open for business on Matt Garza.” He adds that the “expectation among some teams is he will be dealt this winter.”
  • Bruce Levine suggests that the buzz he’s picking up from other teams – not the Cubs – is that the Cubs are ready to trade Garza. He discusses the Rangers, who previously tried to acquire Garza before the Cubs landed him, as a primary trade candidate, noting the possible availability of young first baseman, Mitch Moreland. Given that I’ve heard Moreland’s name mentioned, too, from a source, but hadn’t reported it here, I’d say there’s a fair bit of smoke there. Levine says the Cubs would expect four or five players in return for Garza.

  • Joel Sherman says the Yankees would be interested in Garza, but haven’t yet had any high-level trade talks about him (or any other starting pitcher). Of course, “high level” is one of those qualifiers that could make just about any statement true, regardless of the underlying facts.
  • Privately, I’m hearing that the Cubs are in exploratory talks about Garza with a number of teams, and, while those talks involve names of players/prospects for other teams, they haven’t quite reached the “exchanging names” stage of discussions. Instead, the talks are more about ruling out certain trade partners based on “untouchables,” and based on the kind of return the Cubs are expecting for Garza, if they decide to move him at all. Keep in mind: not every team quite yet knows whether they want to pursue Garza. Some, for example, are not willing to part with a haul for Garza until they’ve landed a big piece or two in free agency, setting themselves up for a major run in the near term.
  • The teams you read elsewhere as being interested – Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays, Tigers – are among the teams reaching out to the Cubs, and you can throw in the Mariners, the Reds and the Marlins. Not all are a great fit, however, because of the Cubs’ desire for top, Major League-ready talent, particularly on the pitching side.

  • Carrie Muskat says trading Garza doesn’t make sense because the Cubs gave up a lot to get Garza, and because he’s still under team control for two more years. With all due respect to Ms. Muskat – whom I do respect – the argument that dangling Garza doesn’t make sense, well, doesn’t make sense. More on that below.

It may be hard to square rumors of dealing the best pitcher on the team with rumors that the Cubs are trying to sign one of Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. But, here’s the thing: the Cubs control Garza right now, they don’t control any free agents. That is to say, if the Cubs are trying to increase the overall talent level of the team, and believe they can get a net gain by trading Garza, there’s nothing inconsistent about trading a valuable piece they control, and signing valuable pieces they don’t. If Garza nets the Cubs a few ML-ready pieces (i.e., spreads the talent around), and the Cubs simultaneously wisely sign free agents, the team could turn things around more quickly than if they (a) just signed free agents, or (b) just traded Garza.

It would not at all surprise me to see the Cubs trade players like Garza, or Geovany Soto, or Carlos Marmol this Winter, and still come to Spring Training with a better team than the one they had last year.

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