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Matt Garza trade rumors continue to swirl, as they should, what with the Chicago Cubs looking to restock their young player inventory and Garza being the best starting pitcher currently available.

The Cubs continue to hold serious discussions with multiple teams about Garza, and, as I tweeted this morning, a source close to those discussions believes there’s a “90 percent chance Garza isn’t with the Cubs come Spring Training.” While the talks are serious, they are simultaneously complicated because of the number of teams involved, the number and caliber of prospects involved (yes, the Cubs’ asking price is very high), and the Cubs’ continued desire to parlay some of those prospects into a player like Anthony Rizzo from the Padres (who are not, themselves, in on the Garza talks, but who might have interest in some of the prospects the Cubs would theoretically acquire for Garza).

The teams most heavily involved at this point shouldn’t surprise you: the Blue Jays, the Yankees, the Tigers, the Rangers (if they can move Matt Harrison), and the Red Sox (though another source tells me the Red Sox have been unenthusiastic about the Cubs’ initial asking price). I get the sense, though I’ve not heard outright, that the Blue Jays are the most aggressive suitor, with the Red Sox and Yankees somewhere behind. Dave Kaplan just said on Twitter a few minutes ago that he’s hearing something very similar.

I already know that many of you are seizing on that 90 percent piece, and letting your minds run wild. But, as always, I have to preach restraint. Because of the nature of these trade discussions, there are many sources close to the talks. And two smart, well-connected sources could have before them the same information, and come to two different conclusions. The point of passing along sourced information like this is not to convince you of its accuracy, but instead merely to make available to you whatever information is out there for consumption and evaluation.

And that’s neither a criticism of my source on this, nor a judgment on his read on this situation. It’s simply important to remind you that, when you hear sourced rumors about the contents of trade discussions or a likelihood of a trade, sources can be “right” about the content of their information, but that doesn’t mean the trade/signing/whatever will ultimately happen. I’m confident enough in this information to say that serious trade discussions are being had with multiple teams, and there’s a strong chance Garza could be traded. But, because of how complicated those talks necessarily are, the talks could fall by the wayside at any moment.

Speaking of complications, there’s another layer. Namely: what if the Cubs decide they’re better off extending Garza rather than trading him?

At 28, Garza obviously still has a number of highly productive years in the tank, and is coming off arguably the best season of his career. The Cubs have him under contract for two more years, during which he’s expected to make around $8 to $9 million in 2012, and $11 to $12 million in 2013. Even if the Cubs don’t expect to contend in 2012, adding on another couple years to Garza’s deal could make some sense.

MLBTradeRumors recently analyzed the prospect of a Garza extension through the lens of the White Sox’s John Danks extension, and concluded that, based on the similarities in the pitchers and their situations, the Cubs could look at giving Garza a similar deal. Danks got five years and $65 million, and MLBTR suggests four years and $52 million for Garza, which would buy out his two remaining arbitration years and two free agent years. Garza, the argument goes, would want the guaranteed money, and the Cubs would want the cost certainty.

But, if Garza is going to net about $20 million over the next two years anyway, is getting two additional years of Garza at $16 million per year worthwhile for the Cubs? If he were a free agent today, how much per season would Garza get? Yes, Garza is about to get expensive, but is an expensive bird in hand more valuable than three or four young, uncertain, cheap birds in the bush? These are the questions, in addition to the value of trading Garza now, that the Cubs must be asking themselves.

Thus, let the discussion of an extension serve as another reminder: the Cubs do not have to trade Matt Garza. While they might ultimately be convinced that trading him now is the best course of action depending on what offers land on the table, they might also decide that Garza’s long-term value to the Cubs is greater than those offers. Or, they might decide trying to trade Garza at the deadline this year is the best move. Or next offseason. You see how it goes.

  • Kansas Cubs Fan

    I think a trade deadline deal or an extension is the way to go.

  • jr5

    The fact that the Cubs don’t have to trade Garza is what separates this from the Halladay/Greinke deals, in my eyes. Those were teams that couldn’t afford to keep the player, and they had to try to get something in return. And other teams knew that, which decreased leverage for the original team; based on that, you could guess that the Cubs could get more in return, or at least more in return relative to the asset they’re trading. (I’m not saying Garza is as good as Halladay, for example.)

    The Cubs can afford to sign him. And even though I’m not against rebuilding, I wouldn’t be against signing Garza either. Top of the rotation pitching is basically the rarest commodity in baseball, and as a big market/big revenue team, once you get a quality arm, it makes sense to hold onto it, because you only need so many good starters to be a contending team. That’s one of the quickest way to contention, to me; building a great rotation.

    • JB88

      Your last paragraph is the key to me. And unless the Cubs were to get back two projected “2”s or a 1, I’d probably be against the deal. Because this is a league litered the 3s through 5s, with some 2s and even less 1s. And Matt Garza is squarely a No. 2, so unless you get back a prospect or package of prospects that offers more in the pitching department, I’d rather stick with Garza, even if that pushes back the rebuilding some.

      • jr5

        Yeah. You’d have to get multiple, top of the rotation prospects, not only with high ceilings but high floors, to make it worthwhile for me. (Again, that’s just me.) Because if you have five good to great starters, you’re going to contend, especially in the NL. With Garza, the Cubs just need four more. If they move him, they’ll need five, and though prospects are nice, pitching prospects are so difficult to project. Look at Chris Archer, for example. Or Kyle Drabek, one of the rumored players the Jays are dangling.

        Again, rebuilding is rebuilding. The fact that the asking price is apparently incredibly high is good, but again, it absolutely should be, given what the Cubs would be trading.

    • Mike

      Agreed!

  • Timmy

    Is it that dire to give away Soriano’s contract that everyone’s embarrassed to even broach it anymore? I say keep Garza, sign him for 4 years past his current contract so we have a solid #1 or #2 by the time we’re ready to compete, and spend 100% energy to find a way to dump the big bad contracts the team holds. I also say Byrd for one more season cause he plays hard, isn’t overpaid, and this is a great example for the young guys.

    • EQ76

      I agree.  Byrd has leadership value to this team.. at least keep him until the trade deadline.  Really, I think that the only contract that’s killing us and needs moved is Soriano.. Big Z will be a FA (unless he finishes top 4 in cy young voting) so will Dempster, so their contracts aren’t really crippling us since they’re gone after this year.  Dump Soriano, keep Byrd for at least half the season and keep Garza unless you are absolutely blown away by the offer you get for him.

  • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

    Great job, you’ve accurately reported the quality information your sources have given you without having to make bold proclamations just so you can get more buzz. This is why a private mom & pop blog is so much better than a corporate blog that is searching for revenue as its primary motivation.

    That being said I completely agree that 90% seems right. Theo Inc. is carefully yet actively cleaning house and rebuilding, he obviously did not like what he saw when he took over and is restructuring how the Cubs operate and part of that is to move valuable pieces for more pieces that will become valuable.

    So follow BN’ers, we are in a rebuild and that is great news. For the first time in my memory as a Cub fan we are actually building for the future instead of going “all-in” each and every year. Sustained success is the future of the Cubs and that should make everyone happy.

    As for your sources, I’m sure there is at least one poster that will think them as not credible and those responses should be fun to read.

  • baldtaxguy

    If the prospect package doesn’t measure up this winter, Cub’s don’t need to extend Garza right away – maybe table and revisit trading him at the break, when there could be more value offered.

  • Daniel Guerra

    I see the Cubs trading Garza away. 100%. The market is thin on pitching and we have the Yankees, Sox, and Jays in one division competing with each other. Garza can be a BIG addition to any of these teams, especially the Jays, which seems to be pushing hard to get there first division crown since 1993. It makes perfect sense for the Jays to give up the motherload for Garza. And thats the bottom line cuz Danny G says so!

    • rcleven

      Don’t think Yankees will be too aggressive for Garza. Williams offered Danks and look how that ended up.

      • CubFan Paul

        Danks isn’t as good as Garza, nor do the yanks want Garza pitching for another AL East rival

  • 2much2say

    Ask yourself, Who is the team to beat in the NL? Now build a team to compete against them.
    In case you’re wondering it’s the Phillies. We need 3 Amigos. Linescum (2013) , Ace #2 Ace #3. In the playoffs you only need 3 deep. The Cards did it with 1 Ace and 3 #3’s. Now they have Wainwright waiting in the wings.

  • Mike

    I would hate to give up Garza if we are thinking we might contend in 2013 or 14.

    There are other pitchers out there, but I really enjoy Garza’s attitude, team spirit and how he plays the game.

    I realize we are in rebuilding mode though and what needs to be done, must be done.

    Does anyone have an idea of the type of return we could get from say the Blue Jays (or another team) for Garza? I hope it truly helps us rebuild.

  • ty

    Goat: Your daddy taught you well. As we say at the courthouse–do not get into a pissing contest with the big boys!

  • JMike

    I still believe that if the Cubs arent overwhelmed with a package of players then why not resign him. A couple BIG IFs: But, IF you get lucky and are able to compete before you originally thought, and IF you get one of these other guys in the rotation to pitch good enough to be a middle (3-4) guy, then all of a sudden you can go out and buy a BIG Arm, and you all of a sudden you have 3 guys you can compete with, and fillers at the back end of the rotation that can get you some wins.

    You can always trade Garza at trade deadline or later if we are developing slow or not seeing the end of the rebuild as we had hoped. But by no means should be in a rush to trade Garza unless its just a no brainer package that someone throws out there.

  • 2much2say

    When it comes to pitching prospects there are no sure things. Collect enough of them and your chances do increase. Having an Ace is better than looking/hoping for one. Is Garza an Ace? No. Basically he is a younger version of Dempster. We will need to buy our pitching staff not trade for one.

  • CubFan Paul

    i think Theo&Co. would want a Major League ready arm and another close to ML player in any trade for Garza. Thats how we find the trade partner

    • 2much2say

      If the target player is a known quantity and projects as a #2 or better why would the other team trade him?

      • CubFan Paul

        there’s no room on the Major League roster for said prospect because the team already has 5-7 starting pitchers, i.e. rangers & jays

        • 2much2say

          Kyle Drabek projected high. Now he is a dump candidate for anyoe who still thinks he has #1 potential. Another sucker play for the Jays.

  • baseballet

    I checked Fangraphs and was pleasantly surprised to see that Garza had the 6th best WAR of NL pitchers last year (better than Carpenter, Hamels, Lincecum and Greinke). He’s a rook on Theo’s chess board.

    • Daniel Guerra

      Forget the rook, its the Queen!!

    • Kyle

      Difficult to activate but extremely powerful in the endgame?

      Sounds about right. Hoyer/Epstein will spend all offseason trying to find a way to good way to use him, then at the end they’ll get the deal they want.

      The Marshall trade was like a really sweet knight-fork.

      • Kyle

        Dangit, now you guys have me going.

        Epstein is a Ruy Lopez-playing Grandmaster (calculating, hard-working, determined to always make the best move).

        Hendry was some kind of bad King’s Gambit player with no endgame skills. (Occasionally pulling off a spectacular win, but mostly just crashing and burning early or blowing it in the playoffs).

        • JustSwain

          Ruy Lopez would make him a traditionalist in modern chess, its a high school opening, very oldschool. Can’t remember seeing it much in tournament play. Queens gambit declined seems about right for your description. And rooks become powerful pieces in the middle game, or as soon as you castle depending on the pawn structure.

    • Pat

      Fangraphs WAR should be taken with a grain of salt. They always seem higher than they should be. For instance, bWAR has Garza worth about 15mil a year as a free agent, fWAR has him woth about $25mil a year. I’m pretty sure his actual value is closer to the first number.

      Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time sorting by WAR on bRef. I’d be curious as to how he ranks with a more realistic WAR number.

  • sam

    Sinister laugh to trade or not to trade !

    WELL if the cubs want to save money and have desided not to field a competitve team either by default or design, trade him away. all the rebuilder worshipper will be happy.

    I can see the future posts ooooooooohhh oooooohhhhh we got rizzo —— he is an infant GOD in the making until he bats 220 lol
    I am sure lil theo will rack in the the elite prospect if he trades him . Garza is a Gamer and he is good pitcher on a bad team that underachived last year and next season seems to showcase alot of underachievers

    I dont mind if the Cubs do trade him and I expect lil theo to get A very high return for him but I would not package him to the padres id package him to the yankees start a bidding war between the Redsox and Yankees – and maybe get all your Rizzo droolers something in that trade to cough up to the padres

    If lil theo lets any team steal Garza then it time to put atleast a small down payment on that gorilla custume

  • 2much2say

    No: ML ready arm, Mcnutt Cashner
    Yes: Linescum, Grienke, Garza

  • Oswego Chris

    continuing your Chess analogy, therein lies the problem…Garza is a Rook, Castro is the King….everybody else is a Pawn….actually, sadly I would put Travis Wood as the next most valuable piece…..

    • baseballet

      T-Wood is in the house! I also think Dempster is underrated. He pitched over 200 innings last season, making him pretty valuable. His BABIP was .324, which strikes me as unlucky. And he rides his bicycle to the games.

      We love you Dempster and T-Wood!

      • BetterNews

        Dempster “underrated”? That’s a good one.

        • mac

          100% agree, BetterNews.

          • baseballet

            He’s pitched over 200 innings in each of the last four years, which is really valuable on a team that is forced to overuse its bullpen (e.g. Marmol).

            Also, in the past four years he’s had WAR’s of 3.7 (the WAR Jon Lester and Tim Hudson posted this year) and 5.2 (the WAR Matt Cain posted this year). He’s not an ace, but he’s valuable. If he has a bounce back year he could be really valuable for the Cubs..

            • BetterNews

              Are you kidding me? Is Dempster a playoff caliber pitcher? My how fans have such short memories. Think 2008! Dempster pitching to James Loney of the Dodgers, in the playoffs, with the bases loaded after he filled them. Grand slam Loney! Need I say more?

              • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

                Nope, and this is why Ted Williams is so overrated. He SUCKED in the postseason. He was definitely not a playoff caliber hitter.

  • Cheryl

    The cubs are in the driver’s seat with Garza. Because they have the option of trading or not trading him they should have incredible leverage. Since the Blue Jays missed out on Yu it seems like they would be very anxious to do what it takes to get Garza and that may not include flipping any of the players they receive from the teaam that ultimately offers the best deal.

  • baseballet

    In 2011 Garza’s BABIP was .306 — I think that might be unlucky (or just reflect bad defense) since most of the other top NL pitchers have BABIP’s below .300

    Based on that, maybe Garza’s numbers will be even better next season.

    • Cheryl

      They’d be even better if Marmol hadn’t closed for him!

      • Kansas Cubs Fan

        No they would be better if Marmol would have pitched like he did the year before.

        • David

          They wouldn’t be any better either way because Marmol’s performance has no bearing on Garza’s.

          (and yes, I’m aware that you’re trying to act like W-L record matters)

          • Kansas Cubs Fan

            Are you sure you’re aware of that? Because I know how Garza pitched last year and know that his W-L record in noway shows how he pitched last year.

            So don’t go around saying stuff like that because it looks bad on you.

            • David

              His W-L doesn’t matter. W-L is a trash stat. That’s why it doesn’t matter what Marmol did. And I can’t believe it’s almost 2012 and there are still people that need to be told this.

              The numbers baseballballet is talking about improving if he has better BABIP luck are not his won-loss record. Nobody with any clue as to what they’re talking about cares what his W-L record is.

              • BetterNews

                Nah—People don’t need be told, they just refuse to believe.

                • Pat

                  Absolutely. xFIP isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

                  Win/loss over a given season is pretty much useless, there are too many outside factors. However, over a career, it holds more value. The noise does start to get filtered out over larger samples.

  • 2much2say

    Gaub! Check Mate and Match.

  • MoneyBoy

    Just a thought here … in the recent Gonzalez trade, 3 of the 4 players OAK received in return (2RHP & 1LHP) were ranked between 30 and 60 in the recent “Seedlings to Stars.”

    Of those only Peacock is thought to be ML-ready, though John Siskels said on 6/20/11: “Although his margin for error will never be great, Milone is a very intriguing prospect with an excellent statistical resume. The fact that he keeps improving when exposed to better competition is a good sign for his future.”

    Would that type of return be sufficient?  Or would the Cubs be better locking up Garza for Danks-type money … 5/$65 … or, in the alternative … 4/$52 with a team option?  (Wainwright-like protection against injury)

    Fantastic stuff Brett – as always !!!

  • googly

    I’m not against rebuilding at all, but the possibility of re-signing Garza is intriguing. You talked about a possible 4yrs/$52m and whether it would be worth it paying him $16m per in years 3 and 4… But… Are the Cubs not in an interesting situation here where – in saving $$$ on the overall payroll (this year at least – looks like) – could they not front-load, or at least even out the contract? (i.e. $13m per)

    Then they have a nice ‘inexpensive’ frontline starter in years 3 and 4 (when they’re hopefully contending) and a bit more money to spend on other players to fill the gaps, or, an even more attractive trade piece. Just a thought…

    • MoneyBoy

      Googly – I had actually mused front-loading the deal but here’s the thing … Dempster’s (14mm) deal is done this year and, quite likely, so is Zambrano’s ($19mm) — though he has a highly unlikely player option.  You could pay Garza his $10-11mm this year and go for a longer, bigger $$ deal next year.  But if you can get him locked for $13mm or so that’s only an extra $2-3mm this year :::shrug:::  For the record, my version of the deal would, in fact, be level for the length.

  • ty

    we knew when we traded for Garza that he was terrible at fielding his position–that proved out as he led National League in errors and even worse only started one double play in 200 innings. Also remember the times that he did field a ball and throw it about 95 mph to Pena.I was surprised teams did not bunt him on him but that being said he is a stud pitcher.

  • Mick

    I think we’ll keep listening on Garza but if I were Theo (I’m not) I’d first trade my other less attractive chips such as Byrd, Soto, Marmol (better value @ trade deadline), Dempster, Z, and Soriano. Look at the return we got on Marshall and how much more depth and flexibility we have. We might accumulate enough assets to trade for Rizzo without having to unload Garza and the money we’d save we could invest in Soler and Cespedes. I just don’t see why everyone is so focused on Garza as the next player to go. Wouldn’t you rather start with our other chips first?

  • T Wags

    I’ve gone back and forth 1,000 times on whether i want them to trade Garza or extend him.. On one hand, you have a very good #2 pitcher that is an excellent teammate and competitor(although ty has a point about his questionable fielding) that you can keep around for when you’re ready to compete(because after all, they dont grow on trees). On the other hand, his season(or possibly even his career) could end on any pitch and to think we could’ve got a haul for him while he had great value on the trade market.

    Either way, i trust Jedstein to do what is best for the club, and they have played this out perfectly to get maximum value for him(if that is what they intend to do). By showing a little patience, he is now by far the best starting pitcher available, and the last chance teams going all in on 2012 have to add a beast to their rotation. Ever since the Marshall trade, I’ve been grinning inside just thinking of what our guys could get for Garza… We’ll just have to see what happens!

  • http://bleachernation Stephen

    Let’s put ourselves in any contending teams shoes for one moment. Lets say we have a chance to really go for it next year and we are 1-2 starting pitchers short. What would WE be willing to give up?
    Well,Hendry gave up 4 top 10-15 prospects, of which included 2 top 5. This was to acquire Garza with a slim to no chance on contending.
    If you ask me ( go ahead….ask!!!!) I say we ask for exactly the same thing, and being that the teams we will be dealing with have far superior farms , this could be quite a bounty.
    Or, we could do what we usualy do and do nothing…..just sayin.

    • baseballet

      Agreed. Garza’s biggest value to the Cubs is as trade bait to a desperate contender. The Cubs have so many holes on the field and in the minors. Trading Garza is our best chance to rebuild quickly.

  • Eric

    I’m not responding to anyone specific here, just people who I’ve heard time and time again against a “rebuild”.  But Imagine in a few years or so, when we have a farm system as good as the Rays but ALSO the budget to KEEP all the big guys when they hit prime years.  The problem is unlike the Rays, we might have 2, maybe 3 “near MLB” guys that other teams would give up anything of prime value for.  What we need is another handful of guys.  We need to have 4 or 5 guys like Jackson, who are all ready for MLB and also have pretty good ceilings.  We also need 1 or 2 of those to be “elite” prospects.  When you have more pieces like that, if one of your guys is blocked, you can trade him for another really good MLB ready player at another position.  I guess what I’m getting at is.  If we had a much better system, we could extend Garza, and then use our other prospects to fill other needs.  But we just don’t have enough prime guys like that needed.  Theo and Jed are making really smart moves, and in a couple short years I feel very confident we can and will move up several spots in farm system rankings if they keep up what they’ve been doing.

    • baseballet

      Well said Eric

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Excellent post Eric. I think the majority of us are right there with you.

      • mac

        Right on, Eric. Like Theo, I don’t look at is a rebuild, but a build. I’m commited to being patient with this approach.

        • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

          I think “build” is the proper term, if only because people equate a rebuild with Tampa and Pittsburgh.  The reason their ‘rebuilds” don’t work is because they don’t have the money to finish the job and need to rely on their prospects alone.  It is really difficult to get 10-15 prospects hitting their prime at the same time to contend and that is why it has only worked for 1 team.

          The approach of throwing money around wrecklessly after free agents has not worked, why not try it this way.

    • MoneyBoy

      Good stuff Eric … most of the kind of guys you’re talking about are babies … I’m praying that our 2010 and 11 classes will be of that quantity and quality – esp given how Seligdorf FUBARed the draft.

      Your point about Tampa is excellent.  They stuffed the bottom of the system with picks, let them mature, then sell them off for more – or, as in the Garza deal, top, ML-ready guys.

  • Jeff

    I don’t know about anyone else but I’m less than thrilled that the Blue Jays are a top bidder. I really don’t like the looks of their overall prospects. Detroit and Texas have better prospects to choose from. If we are going to trade Garza, I’d rather see a return of a Turner, Oliver and some other prospects we can send to san Diego for Rizzo, than what the Jays might want to trade.

    • JR

      I’m a big picture guy just like most everyone who posts on BN. But I can’t help that think if the Cubs move all their legit major league talent for prospects there would be a big back lash this summer. Clearly, Theo and Jed are really smart guys. But do you really think they would be ok if the Cubs win 50 games in 2012? I am not so sure… Theo is pretty competitive by all accounts. I could be off, but I don’t think he would want a team like that on his watch..

      • Eric

        Well until or unless Jed signs Fielder I think you almost have to expect a rebuild.  Aside from adding Fielder, what is he gonna do?  Just trot the same guys out there next year?  I do realize we have some new faces, I also know they won’t trade people like Soto and Marmol unless they get really good prospects.  I expect quite a bit of turnover in the next year.  Whoever survives this winter, could very well be trade bait next fall.  And that’s perfectly fine with me, as long as they sell high and not low.  In the case of players like Soto, perhaps it is best to dangle him at the trade deadline.  He’s due another good year this year, so wait til his value is high.

        • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

          Soto and Marmol are not going anywhere until they rebuild their trade value.  The best time to shop both guys is at the deadline and hope they are hot in June and July.

  • JR

    Originally, I was all about keeping him. But If people are willing to pay, I say move Garza. Why not trade him and get a ton in return? Then go and sign Edwin Jackson (who is obivously not quite as good) but still is pretty nasty. Maybe just maybe, you get a true #1 out of the prosects in the deal. Something Garza is not.

  • Matt

    Jedstein is well-positioned to make a good deal for Garza. The fact that he has 3 competitive teams from the same division in on him creates a more favorable dynamic. Each of these teams want Garza for the purpose of improving their clubs, in isolation. On top of that, each team needs to be concerned about being outbid by one of their divisional rivals. Ideally, this causes each of the interested teams to raise their bids a bit more than they would’ve ,otherwise.

  • jandersonjr81 father of Caden

    I say leak info that we are close to a deal with Toronto. That will force NewYork/Boston(moreso) to panic. We might be able to rob one of those guys. Garza is definitely a sell high guy, as I think he has reached his peak. We might as well get a return on him now, before he has s down year.

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