Matt Garza has been out since mid-July with triceps cramping er arm soreness er fluid buildup er a stress reaction in his elbow, and he still hasn’t begun a throwing program. He isn’t expected to start throwing until December, at the earliest.

“I still have to get my upper body strength back,” Garza said, per “I haven’t thrown a ball. It’s been a pain not to do it.”

Ah, but what we want to know is whether it’s a pain to do it.

When Garza was finally shut down with the stress reaction, you may recall that the time line for recovery was expected to have him throwing again by early September, with a theoretical shot at returning for a couple starts in September (though it was only ever theoretical – the Cubs said almost immediately that Garza was not going to pitch again in the bigs this year, even if he was feeling well enough to do so). You may also recall that, over the past couple months, we’ve intermittently heard from Garza that his arm was never feeling all that crummy to begin with, and he could have pitched through things if he had to.

Just seems strange that he still hasn’t picked up a baseball.

I say “strange” rather than “concerning” because there’s an entire offseason before Garza has to be at full strength again. It’s conceivable that, although the original plan was to have him throwing a bit in September, it became clear that that might be pushing it, and the Cubs didn’t see a point in ramping Garza up in late September just so that he can throw a bit on the side, and then be shut down again a few weeks later. It would be nice to know that Garza is able to throw pain free right now, but there probably isn’t additional reason for concern.

For his part, Garza is plenty confident that he’ll be ready to answer the bell.

“I’m completely confident. I have no doubt in my mind I’m going to be ready,” said Garza, per the Sun-Times. “And I’ll be in way better shape …. Right now it’s just about getting me ready. I’m not worried about anything else but getting me stronger and getting better.”

Spring can’t come quickly enough, when it comes to Garza.

  • Stevie B

    I think Garza’s right arm could be dangling by 2 thread-thin tendons and he’d say ” Yup…go to go in a week… “

  • Stinky Pete

    If I recall, he was just as confident he wasn’t going to miss his turn in the rotation…

  • Curt

    yeah but this is starting to sound like one of those injuries everyone says nothing to worry about and then don’t hear anything for months then come the start of spring training and his arm still hurts and he needs some surgery and is out for months just hoping it is what it is, and nothing more than something simple.

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      If there was a chance of surgery, they would have done it by now to make sure he would be ready for next season.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Kind of like when Chris Carpenter went out in Spring Training and they didn’t decide until July to have the surgery?

  • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    Not really surprising. No reason to throw right now. He can work on strength up until right before spring training, and then start throwing. He would be more than capable by then, and there wouldn’t be questions wondering if it was too soon.

  • Kyle

    Meh, the damage is done. Even before he got hurt, he was failing to repeat his 2011 dominance. Nobody is going to trade for him this offseason, and I don’t see them signing him to an extension. So the best case scenario is that he comes back and is healthy in the early season and returns to his old dominance, so we can get a decent chunk of his former value at the trade deadline. But with two moving parts like that (his health and his performance), the likelihood is low enough that I’m not counting on it. The damage has more or less been done.

    • Boogens

      Unfortunately I think that you’re absolutely correct. I’d love for it to be otherwise but it’s highly unlikely that all those things will come together by the trading deadline for the Cubs to recoup any of their original investment.

  • Jim

    I think this offseason in the trade and free agent market as to just how much confidence the Cubs have in Garza’s return to health. Right now the Cubs would seem to have two open rotation spots with Garza, three without … Of course if the Cubs go out and get three or four starters in the offseason we will just hear the old standby report of having depth at the position is always good thing …. Rusin will most likely be a candidate for the rotation, but there wouldn’t seem to be any others in the system ready for 2013. Vizcaino could also be a possibility depending on health.

    • Chris

      At minimum, they need to get 2 starters. Rusin, Raley, Nick Struck, and a handful of veteran minor leaguers should round out the AAA rotation. Come trade deadline, guys will be moved again. They need to have enough depth waiting in Iowa to avoid buying a Germano or Berken from other teams to eat innings. Vizcaino will be a slow developing situation. He may not even be a starter year one off of Tommy John. If he can start at Iowa and pitch decent, great. I’m expecting we won’t see him until post trade deadline, when rotation spots open up from trades. And that’s only if he’s pitching well in Iowa.

  • JR

    Brett, or anyone else. If you had to choose between the Cubs signing Soler or getting a return for a healthy Garza at the last deadline or last offseason what would you pick? I think I would go with the Garza return, but it’s close. Thinking about the Garza situation give me a headache..

    • Kyle

      I’ll go with the Garza return because of Soler’s contract. We paid through the nose for Soler. We took on all the risk that he might bust, but gave up most of the reward if he succeeds.

      • JR

        Kyle, thats a good point. Soler is the most expensive prospect in baseball history. I hope to God that works out for the Cubs. But so far he looks pretty studly..

        • DarthHater

          I have no direct data, but I recall reading that the Cubs gave Soler about $30 million over 9 years, while the Dodgers gave Yasiel Puig $42 million over 7 years. If true, that would make Puig a more expensive prospect than Soler. Not to mention Japanese pitching prospects whose expense includes a huge posting fee that leaves Soler and Puig in the dust.

          • Luke

            And that’s only if count the total value of a deal. There are multiple of prospects with one year costs higher than Soler’s average per year. Texas gave someone $9.9million a few years back. Tampa had a $10ish million signing not long after that franchise started. And so on.

            • Kyle

              $30 million is the *minimum* Soler gets. Unlike most prospects, he gets the option to opt out of his deal and go to arbitration early.

              Those prospects you are mentioning, they get a signing bonus, then they get to the majors and they make the same $450k for the first three years as everyone else.

              The Cubs gave up that right for Soler. If he succeeds, they don’t get the cheap payoff that you get with most prospects.

              Which isn’t to say I’m not glad they signed him, but in terms of value, I’d rather have an ordinary prospect of the same value, which is what Garza could have netted us last offseason.

          • JR

            True. I forgot about Puig. But Japanese pitchers aren’t really prospects because they contribute right away. But there are big risks associated with them too..

    • TC

      That’s a…weird either/or there, JR, cause one really has so little to do with the other. Personally, I’d probably take Garza return, if only because the return on pitchers at the deadline was so high….

      That injury was the most poorly timed I can think of for so many reasons…

      • JR

        Yeah, I know Garza and Soler have nothing to do with each other. But most Cubs fans are so excited about Soler, and to think we could have been more excited about a Garza return is depressing… I don’t know why I am doing this to myself.

        • TC

          i try not to think about it. If Garza stays healthy for one more week, the Cubs get a massive return in trade. If they don’t trade him, they can explore a reasonable contract extension before the season ends, or trade him for a barrel of prospects in the offseason. If not, they could wait to see if they were any good next year, and when they inevitably suck, trade him for a lot of value at the deadline.

          But, because he got injured, none of those things happened/can happen. His trade value will be low all winter, and trading him at the deadline is really risky to wait for since you don’t know how his arm will react. A contract extension no longer makes sense for either side, either. With injury concerns, I can’t see the Cubs wanting to go more than, say 4/50 at a max. Garza will almost certainly take the risk and try to get to FA healthy, where he could then command 5/70, if not more. And if he gets injured again, hey, its not TJ, so he’ll sign a 1 year deal, establish his health, and then go out and get a big deal one year later.

          This whole situation with him is fucked.

  • Fastball

    I say the unload Garza as quickly as possible or bite the bullet when his arm / elbow is garbage. I pitched in college for 4 years and I know what an arm / elbow pain is all about. It ended my career. It’s not something you can turn around. The pain will come back and he will have trouble. It is inevitable and it has hit him. The Cubs are also famous for lying about their pitchers arm problems. He hasn’t picked up a baseball for a reason and it isn’t a good one. He could have been doing some long toss or even 20 minutes of just playing catch. He hasn’t even done that. That to me is a big concern. He doesn’t even know where he is at other than he probably doesn’t feel anything right now. That means absolutely nothing. Experience tells me that there is a problem. It might not be a problem that can repaired with surgery or they want to risk with surgery. It’s probably the nerve in his elbow near the funny bone if I had to guess. That would be the only reason for absolutely no activity, to let that nerve completely settle down which takes a long time.

  • Stevie B

    Well, we have a long time so I guess we’re good there.

    I have to agree though. This will end badly.

    I like analogies, and I say this is like we traded a lot of silver for a little gold, and the price of gold just tanked.

  • ssckelley

    The FO made a big gamble holding out for the best possible deal and lost. We do not know what all was on the table, I had heard Texas was willing to give a nice package but it is all speculation. Obviously they waited to long but injuries can happen to anyone at any time. The closer you get to trade deadlines generally the better deals you can get. It is always a risk, waiting to trade Maholm, Dempster, or Soto was a risk and those appear to have panned out.

    • Kyle

      In this specific case, I disagree.

      Dempster and Maholm appreciated throughout the season. DeJesus, for example, did not, and of course neither did Garza.

      The combination of Garza coming off a career season, having 64 starts of cost-controlled playing time ahead of him, and the price of starting pitching this offseason made trading Garza last offseason an ideal sell-high situation. There was little reason at the time to think that the deadline offers would be better, even aside from the risk that he’d have elbow problems for the second year in a row.

      • ssckelley

        What exactly are you disagreeing with me on? You saying they did not gamble or just the “general rule” deals can get better the closer you get to trade deadline?

        My point was the FO gambled and they lost.

        • Kyle

          I disagree that Garza’s value was likely to get better at the deadline, for all the reasons listed.

          The “general rule” about trades netting seems a bit dodgy to me, but I can’t prove it one way or the other. It’s a bit of a survivor bias, because the players who make it to the deadline healthy and productive may get more, but the ones who get hurt or have bad seasons don’t.

          The most prospect-laden deals of the year this year came in the offseason, Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos.

          • ssckelley

            I am not saying it was going to get better, but evidently the FO did or they would have traded him before.

            • Kyle

              Which is why I think this was the FO’s biggest mistake of the past season, and I said so at the time. I’ll even reluctantly admit it was a bigger mistake than acknowledging the existence of Ian Stewart.

  • Rich

    I so no reason at all to pitch him. When does a pitcher start throwing after a season ends? February / March ? I am not worried. Some of the soft tissues can take time. With proper therapy and again time, that will help. and ( FASTBALL ) above, obviously knows from experience as a pitcher. Many times surgical may be the only option, other times it is injections for inflammation. If it is a ligament issue, then I would not Garza to lift weights until 2013.

    I had a soft tissue tear. Hamstring tendon tear at the ischial tuberosity ( butt bone ) and suffered for 2 years with all the care you can get. Mine was micro tears – which every athlete and pitcher probably has. But I found full relief and repair without surgery. Something called Platelet Rich Plasma Injections. Completely repaired the injury and re-grows tissue. Not just mask the symptoms.

    I would recommend it for many conditions. Regardless, I threw that info out there, but as far as healing, I am not worried about Garza and I am sure if he shows he can be healthy, the Cubs will trade him. My prediction is that this time off, will improve his pitching next season and will get the Cubs a lot of return from Garza.

  • Fastball

    I kind of look at Garza in a different light now. He is like a car you waited to darned long to trade in on a new one. You kept it too long and it’s costing you more to repair than it is to keep but you don’t want new car payments. Garza’s arm/elbow has a problem and even if he rests it all winter its going to come back again. It will get to the point where he isn’t going to tell anybody about it next time. He has a career and a livelihood he is most concerned with. You don’t tell people about arm trouble if your a pitcher who wants to earn a living. There will come a point in time where the sacrifice isn’t worth it and he will quit. He isn’t there yet but he is just getting into the start of it. If it was a Tommy John thing he would have had it done. I know it doesn’t go away. I know to many pitchers and we all suffered the same way. You think it feels great and then it only takes one pitch and all the work and healing comes undone. Trade Garza the minute he gets on a mound in Spring Training and demonstrates he can throw a 93mph fastball.

    • Bill

      Nobody is going to give you anything for Garza until he’s proven under a number of starts that he’s healthy. If your objective is just to trade him for anything, then the question is why? I guess you could get some salary relief, but so what? The Cubs have money, the need legit prospects back for Garza.

      Why not try to extend Garza’s contract? Wouldn’t it benefit both sides? Garza would get some security, the Cubs would get a discounted price. It’s a risk, money wise, for the Cubs, but again, the Cubs have plenty of money available to take a chance. They gave $30M to a guy like Soler who we don’t know if he’ll ever play in the bigs. Garza seems to love Svuem and playing in Chi so I’d think he’d be open to an extension. You could build in bonuses, if Garza makes ‘x’ amount of starts he gets ‘x’ amount more money.

      Of course, this would be dependant on the medical report on Garza. The doctors should have an idea of how much of a risk the Cubs would be taking with this injury and signing him for an extension.

      Also, if the Cubs elect to not offer an extension, there still isn’t a need to just give him away. The Cubs could keep him, make a qualifying offer after the 2013 season (which he’ll turn down) and then the Cubs will get a 1st round comp pick in the draft. I would rather they did that then to make a trade for players of the caliber they got in the Dempster trade.