Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed the parade of Matt Garza trade rumors this afternoon, and, rather than parse his words line by line, I prefer to share them all, essentially in whole.
“I’m hoping to talk to [Garza] this weekend [at the Cubs Convention],” Epstein said. “I’ve kept his representatives updated every step. But let’s downplay this. This is really more what has happened in the media than what has happened in reality. There was no attempt to shop him. This is not an everyday endeavor for us.
“As we do with all of our players, we weigh all of our options. Really I think very highly of Matt Garza. I think he’s a top-of-the-rotation guy, and I’m looking forward to him being on the mound for us this season. But we are being transparent about the fact that sometimes it makes sense to weigh your options and see if you can put yourself in a better position for the long haul.
“It makes sense for the organization to turn short-term assets into long-term assets. You can do that like we did with Sean. For one year with Sean Marshall we get five years of Travis Wood. But there is another way to do it. You can also find a contract extension that makes sense for both parties and create long-term impact that way.
“You hate to talk about it because you hate to have the player read about it, but we also want to be transparent as we try to set the organization up for the long haul.”
Bam. Just freaking bam.
This message is – as all messages from Epstein are – chock full of nuance. And yet it is simultaneously so candid, clear, and reasonable. It’s the kind of thing that makes an aspiring wordsmith like me smile.
It also gives we Cubs fans a whole lot of credit for appreciating the delicate balance Epstein walks between being open to trading his best pitcher, and not pissing off that pitcher or the fans.
As for the nuance, you can go ahead and ignore the reports claiming that Epstein has now said the Cubs aren’t shopping Matt Garza. Clearly, the situation is not that simple. Things Theo Epstein is not saying: Matt Garza will not be traded; Matt Garza is not available; the Cubs haven’t had any trade talks about Matt Garza; all rumors about the Cubs trading Matt Garza are completely untrue.
Instead, Epstein is giving you as much truth as you’re ever going to hear from an executive.
The Cubs aren’t affirmatively trying to trade Matt Garza. But they are willing to do it for the right price. Theo Epstein wants you to know that. He wants other teams to know that. And he wants Matt Garza to know it. Epstein is being open and fair about a really complex issue, and I’m pretty thrilled to have a guy like that in charge.
Discussing and making trades is not a black and white business. Teams “discuss” dozens and dozens of players with dozens of teams each Winter (and mid-season). Sometimes the discussions are long, deep, and involve actual proposals. Sometimes the discussions are short, terse, and consist entirely of a five minute phone call checking in on the availability of a player (who proves to be unavailable).
Discussing and making trades is also an almost perversely complex business. A trade of Player A is predicated on the availability of Player B, which is predicated on the plans of Team C, which is predicated on the competitiveness of Team D, which is predicated on the asking price of Free Agent E, which is predicated on the signing of Free Agent F, which is predicated on the interest of Team G in Player A. This stuff is neither simple nor easy. Theo Epstein isn’t trying to be intentionally vague. He’s simply dealing openly with a tricky issue in a way that is both accurate and preserves the team a number of outs.
Glib sound bytes and oversimplifications of an inherently complex issue doesn’t do you any favors. And it doesn’t give you enough credit for being able to understand and appreciate just what Theo Epstein is and isn’t saying. Theo Epstein is happy to give you that credit, and he does so when he offers revealing, nuanced messages like this.
As far as the substance of what Epstein said, it really isn’t any different from what we’ve heard and known to be true for months: Matt Garza is available in a deal that makes the Cubs better in the long run. The Cubs probably aren’t going to start calling teams to ask them to make offers on Garza, but that has as much to do with bargaining position as it does with the Cubs’ desire to trade Garza for multiple younger players.
And even that simplification of his message is a bit of a blunt instrument when a fine needle is required.
What can I say? Epstein is better at this than I am.