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.



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