Extending Matt Garza and the Window of Competitiveness – The Talks Are Going “Very Well”

At last check, rumor had it that the Chicago Cubs might be willing to hold onto Matt Garza through the trade deadline, even if they haven’t already signed him to an extension. That doesn’t mean the Cubs aren’t trying to extend Garza, however, and those talks – according to Ken Rosenthal – continue to progress “very well”. (Rosenthal adds no more meaningful color than that, though.)

As we discuss the possible near-term outcomes of Matt Garza’s relationship with the Cubs, there is an important, related consideration that tags alongside any designs the Cubs might have on signing Garza to an extension:

Garza might not want to stay with the Cubs if he doesn’t feel like they are going to put a winner on the field when he’s still in his prime.

He’s never said such a thing, mind you, and it’s gone largely undiscussed in the media. But the argument that “money isn’t everything” cuts two ways. It might mean a guy would take a hometown discount and is worth locking up to a long-term deal at a friendly rate; but it also might mean a guy wants to be on a good team, and soon. And, without that good team in sight, no matter how much money is on the table, he might decide to go elsewhere as soon as he’s able.

To that end, Garza made some interesting comments about the emergence of his rotation-mate (and fellow 20-something starter), Jeff Samardzija.

“He pitched his tail off all last year,” Garza said of Samardzija, according to CSN. “He’s always wanted to be a starter. You put a prize like that in front of a guy like that, he’s going to go out and get it.

“Shoot, he was an All-American in football, a potential top-15 [NFL] pick. He ended up picking this sport and I’m pretty sure he’s happy he did. He’s throwing the crap out of the ball. He’s big, strong and can throw hard for nine-plus. That’s a bright future. He just keeps getting better.”

More to the point, when asked about a future rotation headlined by Samardzija and himself, Garza was hopeful and candid.

“Sounds scary to me,” Garza said. “Samardzija’s the type of guy where he craves the spotlight, and that’s what you need in October. You need a guy who’s not afraid to be out there, a guy who, when the lights are on, [isn’t all] deer in the headlights. You stand around him for minutes and it’s just confidence oozing out of him. For a guy like that to be in October, that’s even more fun to watch. That’s why I can’t wait to get there.”

Scary, indeed. And, to me, it sounds like a reason for Garza to stick around. The Cubs just need a few more Samardzija’s in the rotation, the bullpen, and the lineup.

So, what’s the upshot here? What am I driving at?

If the Cubs do wind up extending Matt Garza this year, it seems plausible that the front office will have had to make some promises to Garza to do so. Nothing binding, of course, but something along the lines of, “don’t worry, Matt, we plan to surround you with pieces that could take this team to the playoffs, and soon.”  Some of those pieces will come in the form of continued development internally (Starlin Castro, Jeff Samardzija, Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson, perhaps). But others will undoubtedly have to come from outside the organization.

The window of competitiveness, like “money isn’t everything,” also cuts two ways. It’s the time period when most of a team’s best players are playing at an age likely to represent their peak (and thus the team is most likely to make the playoffs); but it’s also the time period when a player sees his own best chance to make the playoffs. If the Cubs can’t convince Garza that their window of competitiveness is coming in the next few years, is Garza really going to be willing to devote his age 29, 30, and 31 seasons to rebuilding? No matter how much he might love Chicago, and no matter how much money the Cubs throw at him, I’m not sure he would.

In other words, an extension to Garza might signal the Cubs’ intentions this offseason (or, at the latest, next): they’re going to be adding quality pieces. It might signal that a three-plus year rebuild is not in the plans.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

66 responses to “Extending Matt Garza and the Window of Competitiveness – The Talks Are Going “Very Well””

  1. CubFanInNebraska

    Brett – Given the current state of the Cubs, that being little to no production 5-8, no viable 5th starter and nobody who you feel good about coming out of the bullpen and consistently getting outs, they’re playing decent baseball and have done so against some good teams.
    I guess I don’t find it to be that inconceivable that they can pick up some pieces this off season and have, at minimum a team that can be in the converstation to win the Central and/or be in the running for one of the now 5 playoff spots.
    While I completely agree that extending Garza does signal that they may be more “in it” than we thought for next year, I don’t know that the lack of an extension prior to that signals a long rebuilding process exactly.
    Regardless, good article and I for one am hopeful that we can lock him up. A Garza/Shark combination looks to be a pretty hard hitting 1-2 punch.

  2. a_mazz_ing

    I really like the idea of a Garza/Shark 1-2 punch. Maybe you can even bring back Maholm to be the #3 if he keeps pitching well. I’m all for extending Garza. I think a lot depends on how Dempster keeps pitching. In all honesty, I see him moved at the deadline. I know we like him and he loves it here. But if Jed goes up to him and says “hey man, Boston wants you”, I would think Dempster would be down if it was good for him and the Cubs. I think he honestly does care a lot about the team and would want to do whatever is best for him and the team.

  3. Cubbie Blues

    “we plan to surround you with pieces that could take this team to the playoffs, and soon.”

    So many caveats in there. Where to begin?

  4. Patrick

    I’d like to be first to coin the term “Gardzija” for them as 1-2 in the rotation. Pronounced “Gard-ja”

  5. Luke

    I’ve never stopped assuming that the Cubs would be buyers in the winter after the 2012 season, no matter their record in 2012.  This team is not terrible.  They’ve essentially added a very good starting pitcher (Samardzija) and a mid-order RBI bat (LaHair) this season already, with another potential RBI bat (Rizzo) and a solid all around player (Jackson) lurking in the wings.  That’s not a bad start.

    Add at least one more well above average starter and one more biggish bat, and I think  the Cubs might be in business.  An extra reliever (or two (or three)) and a good hitting outfielder off the bench would be nice too.

    And keep in mind, there is another wave of reinforcements building behind the Cardenas/Rizzo/Jackson tide.  Logan Watkins looks more like a viable option at second every day, Jae-Hoon Ha could easily take Reed Johnson’s place as a reserve outfielder, Alberto Cabrera (now a reliever) is putting together a Dolis like season in Tennessee, Tony Zych could be fighting for a bullpen job next spring, and there is a small army of pitchers who are going to be looking for a fourth or fifth starting job in Arizona in February.

    None of those guys are going to single-handedly win the pennant for the Cubs, but they can fill out the bullpen, back of the rotation, and bench very nicely and on the cheap, thereby allowing Theo and Jed to invest fully in the two or three big pieces that will help the team the most.

     

    1. AB

      are there any advanced college bats in the draft next year that would have the potential to be instant 2-3 WAR contributors with less than 1000 PA in the minors like Tulo or Braun??

      1. Luke

        I doubt it.  Not that soon.

        Maybe Mike Zunino, but I’m not anywhere near as high on him as some others are.  The comparison to Bryce Harper, for instance, are just ridiculous.

  6. ty

    Maybe because I am in “like” with Campana so much but this team is a lot of fun to watch this year.

    1. MaxM1908

      Agreed. I wish we could have salvaged a few more wins at this point, but even when I’m cursing at the TV and breaking things within arm reach, I know my anger is not because they suck, per se, but because they’re on the cusp of being good. I don’t think I’d get as angry if I thought they were hopeless. Even in losses, there are positives to behold and fun to be had.

      1. hansman1982

        2011 was the “hitting rock bottom year” where it seemed like every piece of news was negative. This year, and maybe its just because I have a new found place to discuss the Cubs, more things seem to be going our way than not.

    2. SirCub

      I like Campana, but I’m not “in like” with him.

      1. ty

        Lets skip that scheduled deposition.

  7. Mick

    I’m going to get slaughtered for this but I’m still for trading Garza. If the Cubs can acquire a few future stars and sign a pitcher or two this off-season isn’t that the best of both worlds? There will be some desperate teams at the trade deadline, particularly the Tigers, and guys like Below, Smyly, Turner, and Castallanos could fill the holes in our rotation for years to come.

    1. BN Virgin

      There is nothing wrong with that opinion. I would like to see Garza extended but you want see me slaughtering you for thinking that way. I’m not sure there is a “bad” way to go about this situation. If we keep him, we have a top tier starter in his prime. If we trade him, we (better) get at least a couple top prospects.

    2. Cubs Dude

      I think if the return for Garza is there most people would be cool if they traded him. Also, it depends on how much money Garza wants and if he is demanding a NTC. We will probably never know all those details if they trade garza though. If he is requesting way too much like he was in arbitration he may be as good as gone.

    3. Bric

      I think we’re all in agreement that if you get a ton of quality players similar to what the Rays got in the first place then none of us have a problem with trading him. But the problem is 1: his new salary is gonna make a few teams a little shy about aquiring him (especially the Tigers, who seem to have already maxed the company credit card). And 2: I don’t see the Tigers giving up their top 4 prospects anyway. I would be extatic if we got just Turner and Castellanos along with one or two lower level players and i don’t even know if that would happen.

  8. ottoCub

    Complete change of subject, I’ve got a question about Castro’s defense : I was only able to listen to the Brewers game on the radio, and it sounded like every time he fielded a grounder, the play at first was really close. And in a few instances, the Brewers runner even beat the throw. Is his footwork still sloppy? Is he still popping the glove once or twice on every throw? Or was it just a case of radio over-exaggeration?

  9. Cub Gone Wild

    I don’t see how Dempster gets traded. We won’t get enough for him and I would rather keep him around as our 5th starter next year. He would be the best 5th starter in the central division. Maybe in the NL. He will face much weaker pitchers and his chance for success will be great. If the Cubs can get a really good no. 3 pitcher I think they could be set up nicely. Maholm can be the no.4 starter. Now were the real work needs to be done is in the bullpen. Theo and Jed need to build a really good bullpen. Not the leftover scrap heap variety. That would mean no Kerry Wood, No Marmol, Bowden, Camp etc. Dolis and Russell are the only two in that group I would consider keeping around. The rest are scrap pile. Next year Theo will have Big $$$$ to spend. First and foremost a starting pitcher of the Hamels, Greinke variety. I believe Soriano will play out his contract in Chicago. He won’t be a starter but I don’t think they pay for him to play somewhere else. Nobody wants him anyway. I do see LaHair in left field, Jackson in center and God I would love Hamilton in Right Field. Ricketts has the money and should spend it on Hamilton. With Rizzo at 1st and Starlin at short we will need a really good veteran 2B and 3B unless Stewart really comes on which he could. We have 3 catchers and I doubt Soto is around after the deadline no matter how bad the return is going to be. When Clevinger comes back healthy he should be the everyday catcher with Castillo as the backup. I don’t think Castillo handles some of the pitchers that well. Garza had him all tied up back there this week. Maybe just a bad night for him in a park he never played in. He looked like he was getting fooled by the pitches all night. Maybe he couldn’t see them out of the background. At catcher we are good enough. I’m not going to bitch about Volstadt anymore. He has proven what he is. He is the same thing he was in Miami. Change of scenery didn’t help. Move him to the pen. Tell him no slider. He is a two pitch guy. Fastball and Change up. If he has a real curve ball okay maybe sometimes. Make him a one inning guy in the 7th.

  10. Andy Russell

    I’d really like to see him stay. I think he will be a great clubhouse leader for the pitchers when we eventually loose Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster and he is an awesome pitcher, but if Theo and Jed don’t think we’re truly going to make a run at the playoffs for another year or two then we need to see what we can get for him. Any of us who have watched the games regularly this year can see where some holes (bull pen, bats 5-8) are starting to appear on the team.

  11. Cub Gone Wild

    If the prospects that the Tigers have are so damned good then why don’t they just promote them and go with what they got. Probably because they aren’t good enough or they know something we don’t. I don’t want them. I think keeping Garza is the smartest thing Theo can do. When you have a price bird in the hand you don’t give him back just because the bush is full of other birds. I look at it this way. When was the last time the Cubs made a trade for a pitcher that was a starter who amounted to anything? (Garza excluded.. we gave up the farm) I mean a real top of the line starter! You could almost say never. But if I was calling it straight. I would have to go all the way back to Rick Sutcliffe. That was in the 80′s. I don’t care if you think Theo is a genius. That kind of deal is not going to work for the Cubs. Keep Garza. We paid too much for him in my opinion but that’s okay.

    1. Mick

      Oh man, Below and Smyly are with the big-league club and are pitching really well. Turner’s in AAA w/a sub-2 ERA and Castellano is batting .400 in High-A. This would solve our rotation, bullpen, and 3B positions for the next 6+ years.

      1. Drew7

        I’m on board with Smyly and Castenellos, along w a 3rd piece, for Garza. With the emergence of Shark, I’d feel better about that trade followed by a run at Hamels. That way, you get a solid piece to slide into Garza’s spot, a 3B for the future, and an upgraded rotation.  If Hamels went elsewhere and we couldnt aquire another SP, you’ve got plenty of young arms in AA and AAA that could fill the back end (like Luke mentioned).

      2. ferrets_bueller

        NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!

        The Tigers do not have a single piece that I want back for Garza. None.

        Turner is massively overrated, doesn’t have ace-type stuff.  He has the build of an ace…but not the stuff.

        Smyly is nice, but he doesn’t have ace stuff either.  He averages 91 right now, as a 22 year old.

        Castellanos is a raw, low level wild card.

    2. Norm

      So every good prospect in the minors must not really be good because the big league team hasn’t called them up?

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        Moreover, this also forgets that many managers (and Leyland is one of them) prefer the “proven veteran” to the potential young stud.  GMs work with managers in these decisions, and a guy like Leyland needs a bit of AAA play to be sold.

  12. Patrick

    With the emergence of Samardzjia they should Definately resign Garza. It just came to my mind, does anyone else think Baltimore could be a possible destination for Dempster? If they stay in contention they’ve always had good hitting and no pitching. I don’t know if they have a good farm system, but if they keep winning and are in contention, I think they might pull the trigger on a quality starter like Dempster.

    1. Patrick

      Now I had to add a picture, because this ain’t me, and I don’t see Dempster waiving his NTC to go to Baltimore.

  13. Puma0821

    Luke, how long would it take for a polished pitcher like Appel to reach the bigs? 2013/2014? If we are going for it sooner rather than later. I would love to see him drop to us.

    Also with the success of Shark’s conversion to satrter and Russell being asked the ? last week. What are the odds the Cubs let him try to do the same next year?

    1. Luke

      If he’s healthy, late 2013 or 2014 is probably the earliest that is realistic.  A very few guys can jump straight from college ball to the pros (and even fewer can jump more or less straight from high school), but a year in the minors is pretty much the minimum for most prospects, even the advanced college ones.

      I wouldn’t necessarily expect any player the Cubs take with first round pick to be ready to help the team before 2014 at the very earliest.  A few years beyond that is much more likely.

  14. calicubsfan007

    I’m just curious, is it plausible for the Cubs to get Turner or Smyly (is that how you spell his name?) and Castellanos for Garza? That is one of the very few trades that I would go for with Garza. Otherwise, extend him and go for Hamels for free agency.

  15. DocPeterWimsey

    I think that the Tigers will be very reluctant to trade Castellanos.  He’s only 20, and the Tigers’ plan is to keep Miggy at 3rd until Castellanos is ready, then move Miggy or Prince to DH, have the other one play 1st, and play Castellanos at 3rd.  (VMart will be back next year, but as Castellanos only in A+ ball now, most projections have Castellanos starting in 2014, not 2013.)

  16. Myles

    Doesn’t all this “trade him or don’t trade him” stuff just emphasize how insanely important and undervalued drafting and developing talent is? There is literally no problem at all that can’t be solved with drafting better and developing better than the next guy. You don’t need to worry about trading guys for talent because you already have some, and those guys are cheaper and cost-controlled so you can re-sign your expensive talent! If the Cubs had a better farm system, I don’t think you’d even consider trading a guy like Garza, who can be resigned and is under control playing for a team that has a high payroll

    My ultimate dream is to never have this problem again in 3 years. Teams that draft and develop are better, which makes them cheaper, which allows them to get better still.

  17. chris margetis

    If this has been brought up before I apologize, but doesn’t it seem like Campana batting second is really effing with Castro’s mojo at the plate? Ever since he’s hit the 2 hole, it just seems like he’s swinging at more bad pitches and not in a groove. Would a swap of Campana and DeJesus be better?

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      Campana has been here basically for May, during which time Castro’s posted a .327/.340/.449 line.  Castro’s Aprli line (largely without Campana) was .333/.351/.433.  So, Castro’s performance has not only been identical, but amazingly identical: the odds of getting such similar lines is pretty low under any constant rate model.

    2. ty

      Agree. You can see it in Castro eyes that Campy is a distraction. He feels confused as to protect the plate-thDe runner and espec. since steal sign from third is in-significant as Tony on his own.

  18. Chris Margetis

    I guess the numbers dont lie. It just seems like his approach has been a bit more off kilter, but again, if the numbers shake out the same, no change needed.

    1. Norm

      I agree…he had the worst at bat I’ve even seen him take a couple nights ago and he’s swinging at an awful lot of pitches in the dirt…one swing was at a ball that bounced two feet in front of the plate.

      His walk rate is 7th worst in all of baseball.
      His swing and miss rate is BELOW average for the fist time in his career.
      If you believe in Fangraphs “outside swing percentage” (how often he swing at balls outside the strike zone) he’s MUCH worse…he was at 33% last year swinging at balls, he’s at 44% this year.
      His pitches per plate appearance is way down too…

      I fear his numbers come crashing down…he might still hit 315/320, but he seems very Garry Templeton-esque this year.

      1. Jackalope

        Yeah, I noticed some of these numbers on Fangraphs, as well. Here’s some disconcerting trends to add to the numbers Norm pointed out:

        2010: 5.7 BB%, 32.8 O-swing%, 6.5 SwStr%
        2011: 4.9 BB%, 32.7 O-swing%, 7.2 SwStr%
        2012: 2.7 BB%, 44.6 O-swing%, 9.6 SwStr%

        (O-swing% is the percentage of pitches outside the zone he swung at; SwStr% is the percent of pitches he swung and missed on)

        These do not look like indicators of an improving player. The Gary Templeton comparison is a disappointing, but at this somewhat realistic.

        1. Luke

          That 2012 line looks like a guy who is pressing and trying to do too much, sort of like he did when Quade made him the three hitter last year.

           

  19. ty

    Damn. I did not know Doc was on here with stats

  20. Seamhead

    The Blue Jays appear to be the team most interested in making a trade for a talent like Garza. They like his past success in the AL East and think he could be the piece they need to really compete in that division.

  21. Jb1908

    Stop it all right now. The goal isn’t to go to the playoffs it’s to go to the world series.

    We aren’t even close to the rangers, tigers, Yankees, cardinals, or dodgers. The goal isn’t to contend next year but to contend for the next decade. The yanks, cards, rangers, and until this year the red sox have been competitive for a decade. What did they do?

    They built there farm system and developed talent. Almost all of these teams developed their core and then made great deals to improve the team. The yanks are good because of jeter, cano and Rivera. Boston with youklis, pedoria, papplebon. Texas with Cruz Wilson trading an up and coming picture for Hamilton.

    You have to trade garza dempster and maholm. We have one player to build around a ss who doesn’t hit for power. Is lahair for real? I don’t know. Shark? We know very little more than we knew a month ago. We know marmol is bad lahair is suprising and dempster has something left.

    Read any more into that and you are a classic cub that wants this team to win do bad when they have no shot.

  22. Eric

    The emergence of Shark might mean a slight bit more of a discount from Garza. We’ll see. But if he loves the Cubs, then looks right next to him on the bench and sees another Ace pitcher, that’s gotta look good to Garza, who is probably one of the most competitive guys on that bench.

  23. Hawkeye

    Doc- I’m not saying this to be a dick but don’t you think all the franchises think every young player they sign as “good young” players. I think it more an issue a strong scouting a some luck then.
    In Ecology 101 speak, everyone have the same amount od offspring.