Matt Garza is Focused on Pitching Well for that Next Contract – Can the Cubs Ensure it Comes from Them?

matt garza chinToo often this offseason, we’ve focused on the trade possibilities for a healthy Matt Garza. If he shows he’s healthy in the Spring, what trades can the Cubs make? What about mid-season? Is it better to wait until the deadline?

Those discussions, while legitimate, tend to lose sight of the fact that a healthy Garza offers another potentially equally valuable option for the Cubs: signing him to an extension. And even that discussion loses sight of another angle: Garza wants to show he’s healthy and pitch well so that he can get the best contract after 2013 that he can – be it with the Cubs or elsewhere.

Garza undoubtedly likes being a part of the Cubs organization – he’s said as much many times – but his focus this year, in addition to helping the Cubs be as competitive as possible, has to be on demonstrating his value to any and all teams that would have interest in him when he reaches free agency after the 2013 season. He’d be doing himself a disservice if that weren’t the case.

“I’m just going to go out there and pitch,” Garza told the media of his final year before free agency. “I’m going to make people want me.”

But he’s open to staying with the Cubs long-term, right?

“My goal is to go out there and pitch and prove that I’m healthy enough and make them want me to stay,” Garza said, per the Tribune. “That’s my job. Right now there’s all the questions: ‘How is he going to come back? How is he going to rebound?’ Those are legitimate questions. I haven’t thrown off a mound competitively for two months. Now I’m getting back into it, feeling great …. I’m just excited to be pitching again. Not really too worried about what the future holds. All I know is April 1 is Game One and I want to be there.”

I don’t think there’s much doubt that, on the right deal, the Cubs would definitely want a healthy, effective Garza to stay long-term. But what is “the right deal,” and how do the two sides get there? As I’ve written before, there could be some difficulty in reaching that point. The Cubs, because of Garza’s injury issues and because of the “hometown” effect, would want to get Garza at a discount. Garza, because of the ballooning salaries around baseball and because of the weak starting pitching market after this season, would probably not want to leave too much on the table to sign an extension. If he feels like he’s healthy, maybe Garza expects to go out and dominate this year. If so, he’s going to want to get paaaaaid.

How does this dance play out? Well, there’s no way to know right now, especially given the lingering trade possibility.

But if this offseason is instructive, I’m not so sure Garza is going to want to wait until after the season to make up his mind about an extension. Consider this: if Garza remains on the Cubs for all of 2013, and pitches decently but not dominantly, he probably receives a qualifying offer from the Cubs (a one-year offer at the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball – it’ll be a touch higher than $13.3 million next year). That qualifying offer, if he declines it, will tie him to draft pick compensation. And, as we’ve seen with a number of free agents this year – most prominently Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, the latter of whom is still looking for a job – teams are extremely reluctant to part with a draft pick (and the associated bonus pool money) for non-elite free agents.

Is Garza willing to risk falling into that category? Is he willing to risk having to settle for a short-term, low money deal next year because he’s been dragged down by draft pick compensation? If there’s a reasonable extension offer on the table from the Cubs, is he more willing to consider it now that he’s seen what the market looks like for players in his range?

These are the questions running through Garza’s mind, his agent’s mind, the Cubs’ front office’s mind, and any potential Spring trade partners’ minds. I’d imagine the Cubs, if they have any interest in extending Garza at all, have already started the process of applying this leverage. It isn’t so much a “threat,” because the Cubs are going to want to make a qualifying offer regardless (because otherwise, they risk losing Garza for nothing at all). But it is certainly pressure.

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

65 responses to “Matt Garza is Focused on Pitching Well for that Next Contract – Can the Cubs Ensure it Comes from Them?”

  1. hansman1982

    The draft pick compensation won’t come into play until after July 31. I am sure, right now, Garza is thinking he finishes the season with another team.

    1. northsiders6

      Can you explain the important dates in this whole Garza situation?

  2. Idaho Razorback

    Extend him, 5 years 75 million.

  3. JR

    That’s an interesting take on the qualifying offer with Garza, Brett. Unless you’re an ace or an elite player the compensation with a player really does kill their value. Even if Garza proves to be healthy this year I don’t think he would qualify as an ace/elite player. Sure, a lot of teams would like Garza. But would a lot of teams want to pay him a lot and lose a pick? I am not so sure. The Cubs do have some leverage there.

    1. EvenBettersNewsV2.0

      His numbers are up there with the best when he was on the field. Anymore you need an ace and a solid 2 that is borderline ace to win a title. Do I think he is an ace in the traditional sense? No, but I think he is a top 25 pitcher who has won in the AL East getting ready to bank. A team that is a top pitcher short, will throw cash and a pick his way. He isn’t old. If he goes 4 or 5 years, he should produce equal to good value based on what he is likely to receive. We have some leverage, but he is no Kyle Lohse.

  4. Tim

    What does garza mean by, “I haven’t thrown off the mound competitively for two months?” He hasn’t pitched since July

    1. Tobias

      Could be simulated games?

      1. Tim

        I don’t know if I would call that competitively

  5. kgd

    Seems like if Garza had become a FA this offseason from another team, the Cubs would have been in on trying to sign him. If we’re looking to be competitive starting next year Garza seems like exactly the kind of piece we should be after. Trading him should really only happen if:
    1) We get an obscene haul for him
    2) Garza over-values himself and holds out for Greinke level money during extension talks.

    Gotta sign players when they’re available, right? Well Garza’s already sitting in our lap.

  6. MightyBear

    Another reason I think the Cubs will be good this year and surprise all you experts. They have several top pitchers still in their prime trying to get big contracts. Garza, Baker, Feldman, Marmol. And their younger guys are trying to prove their worth long term deals, Samardjia, Russell, Schierholtz, etc. The only long term deals they really have now are Castro and Jackson.

    “Give me 25 guys in their contract year and I will win a pennant every time.” – The White Rat

  7. mak

    Unless the Cubs get 1-2 legitimate top pitching prospects, I don’t see how they can deal him. It’s impossible to sign aces as FA these days.

  8. Cubsleeram

    Bowden just ranked every team’s offseason, and put the Cubs at #21. HA! Good one, Jim. What’s even better though is that he placed us next to the D-Backs — the same team that traded away Bauer and Upton for a washing machine and half of a pastrami. Bowden’s just turrible.

  9. Boogens

    “I haven’t thrown off a mound competitively for two months.”

    Did anyone pick up on this statement by Garza? I’m not certain what he means by that. I’m guessing that by two months he’s referring to August & September (i.e. the remainder of the ’12 season), which seems a little weird/short-sighted to me. The way I look at it is that he hasn’t pitched competitively for more than 6 months. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    1. Tim

      I just commented on the same thing above. “I haven’t thrown off a mount competitively for two months.” He said this yesterday. To me it doesn’t seem as if he was talking about August and September.

  10. Chad

    I would love to sign Garza to an extension but I wonder how much financials would play a role. The reason I say that is they already have 13/year in Jackson. I believe they will try to trade for Price (or dear goodness I hope they do) and if they resign him you are looking at easily 20/year. Then if you resign shark (10/year minimum) you already have $43/year in 3 pitchers. If you give Garza 15 that is $58/year for 4 pitchers which is a minimum I would guess for those 4.

    That doesn’t seem to bad if you have younger guys start to step in. So maybe it can happen. I would love to see it happen. Then there is still a good amount of money to spread around. Who knows, but that would be one heck of a rotation.

  11. Carne Harris

    Never really occurred to me until reading this that if the qualifying offer rules stay the same, we could see more players staying with one team for their whole career. I’d love to see that.

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      Why? What is good about players being stuck on one team for their entire careers?

      At any rate, I doubt that this will happen. We’ll see cases such as we saw this year where teams will make qualifying offers on guys that they don’t intend to keep (e.g., the Braves with Bourn) in hopes of getting a draft pick. There will probably be a cycle: if teams get burned by having a guy take the offer, then they will be more reluctant to do the same the next time around. Moreover, if (really, when) a few players get stuck unsigned until June, I suspect that the Players Union will get this removed from the next CBA.

      1. RoughRider

        “What is good about players being stuck on one team for their entire careers?”

        I don’t know about the “stuck” part but it does mean something to players and fans for a player to be on one team all or most of their careers. Do you think Banks or Santo would have been loved by the fan base as much as they were had they only been with the Cubs for a few years? It meant something to me that my early years of being a Cub fan they had Banks, Santo & Williams on the team. The longer players stay with a team allows young fans to identify with the players and team and become life long fans.

        1. hansman1982

          Are fans lest vested in teams or players than prior to the opening of free agency?

          What they need to do is just give the losing team a pick before the signing team. Once you get out of the “protected” picks, there isn’t much difference between #11 and #30 in terms of talent acquired.

        2. DocPeterWimsey

          If it meant so much to players, then they would not have fought so hard for free agency rights: and they would fight just as hard now if the owners tried to take away these rights.

          For all the durm and strang that a small minority of hardcore fans raise, Joe and Jane Fan root for laundry. Fans are excited to see good players join their team because they know that it will make their team better than it was. And such players frequently become quite beloved by fans, normal and hardcore alike.

      2. Spencer

        What’s bad about it?

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          What is bad about it is that nobody should have to work someplace in which they do not want to work, especially if there can be other options.

          In the end, the only people who will benefit from restricting players movements will be the owners. If fans cared, then attendance would have dropped after free agency started: and it didn’t.

          1. Chad

            They don’t have to. If they don’t like the place they can work they can leave. It may be for less money, but hey they can leave. This does provide a minimal advantage to teams like the Rays or Pirates that don’t have big pockets so they can keep some of their homegrown talent. I like it. Keep the guys that help build a team. It’s a nice step between what it was a long time ago and the full blown free agency a few years back. The top FA still get their money cause they are that good.
            Now if you think that Bourn got screwed because he only got $48 milllion over 4 years instead of $60 over 5 (he was never getting 100 million, no chance in heck) then well you are stupid. A guy that gets $48 million to play baseball should not complain. If you can’t live the rest of your life in extreme comfort or even luxury on 48 million you don’t deserve more money to waste.

      3. Carne Harris

        Really all you have to do to answer that is stop framing it from the player’s perspective and start framing it from the fan’s. What good do the George Bretts, Ernie Banks, and Jim Palmers of the world do for the fanbase? Question answers itself.

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          The fact that so many free agent signees did just as much for the fans contradicts that.

          Moreover, Brett’s case is the only one that is truly relevant: Banks never had the option for free agency, and Palmer had only limited chances towards the end of his career. Remember, it was players from Banks’ and Palmer’s era that fought so hard to get free agency: that should speak volumes about how the players really felt about the situation.

          1. Carne Harris

            Right, that’s why that 4 year/ 20 mil guy is still known as Mr. Cub to this day.

            And you’re again addressing it from the player’s perspective. I, a fan, love to see players spend an entire career with one team, which is the sum total of what I said. For you to argue against me, you need to basically argue, “No, you don’t!” A fool’s errand.

            1. hansman1982

              It depends on the fan. For me, Kerry Wood, Ramirez and Lee will be more “Mr. Cub” to me than Ernie Banks (blasphemous, I know).

              Even if Starlin Castro leaves for the Yankees after this contract, I will always think of him as more Mr. Cub than Ernie Banks. Hell, if Pujols would have came here I would have been as connected to him at the end of his 10 year deal as Banks or Jenkins or Williams.

              I have more of a connection to Soriano as a Cubbie than almost any of the former Cubs greats. The only exception is Santo, but most of that comes from listening to him on the radio.

              1. hansman1982

                Left out:

                but, I’m guessing, that none of this would be true for you.

                I LOVE free agency and players moving about, let’s me dream that, someday, Mike Trout will play for the Cubs from ages 27-32.

                1. Carne Harris

                  I get that. And I know everyone’s different. But I love seeing a player spend his whole career with a club. Gives them a face of the franchise feel and lets me see them evolve year after year. I’m not anti-free agency by any means, I just will enjoy it if qualifying offers make those type of players a little less rare.

            2. Norm

              Players CAN spend their entire careers with the same team if they want to. But they choose to go where the money is.

            3. TWC

              Your perspective comes as “a” fan, but you’re trying to frame it as “the” fan perspective — you said that yourself in your previous comment. There are many here for whom the desire to see a player play his whole career with a team isn’t paramount. If you continue to try to argue that *your* perspective is “the” fan perspective, you’ll continue to see a lot of disagreement.

              1. Carne Harris

                Good thing I didn’t do that then. Here’s my post:

                “Never really occurred to me until reading this that if the qualifying offer rules stay the same, we could see more players staying with one team for their whole career. I’d love to see that.”

                Someone posted, what’s good about it, and I posted I think it’s good for the fanbase, which I do. Never trying to put words into someone’s mouth. Can’t say the same about you with that last sentence.

                1. TWC

                  Yeah, you did:

                  Carne Harris | February 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink | Reply
                  “Really all you have to do to answer that is stop framing it from the player’s perspective and start framing it from the fan’s. … Question answers itself.”

                  There are fans that don’t have that perspective. Clearly, you do. I can certainly understand your position, and I am sympathetic to it. But it’s not “the” fan perspective.

                  1. Carne Harris

                    I can see what you mean. It was contextual to me saying I like something and someone else saying what’s good about it. My point was in trying to show someone how they could understand a fan feeling that way, not that all fans feel the same as me. I usually assume that’s understood as you put 10 people in a room they’re not going to agree, let alone an entire fanbase.

                    1. TWC

                      Oh, I get you know — your followup replies to me and others in this thread have clarified the comment to which I had originally responded.

                      It’s not infrequent ’round here, as you know, for broad strokes to obscure a more nuanced reply.

              2. DocPeterWimsey

                Moreover, there is a simple empirical basis for assessing this issue. If lots and lots of fans really cared, then attendance, viewership, etc., of baseball would have gone down in the 1970′s at a more marked rate than it already was. (Football had already supplanted baseball as the national pasttime at that point, and things such as the DH were introduced in part to revive fan interest.) It didn’t. Baseball has maintained pretty strong popularity for years.

                In a way, this is no different from asking a hardcore Tolkien fan what he or she (hah! OK, “he”) thought of the Lord of the Rings films, and then looking at what the 99% of humanity who aren’t afraid of girls thought of them. One group says “No Glorfindel?!? WORST movie ever!!!!” The other group says “Give it more Oscars.”

                1. DarthHater

                  WORST analogy ever!!!! ;-)

                2. Carne Harris

                  Ah, Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. I call it Adam Smith’s Invisible Middle Finger. :) Never works out that way in real life, especially not with the monopoly that is MLB. Peeps could prefer to see more career one-team players and still not have it affect their viewership. You could be right though, an attack on free agency wasn’t really what I was going for. Just wouldn’t mind it if qualifying offers led to more career one-team players.

                3. davidalanu

                  Good grief. The guy says that he likes to see star players stay with the same team for their entire careers and you feel the need to “quantify” his opinion. I don’t think he was trying to speak for all of fandom.

        2. DB Kyle

          Meh. Offseason moves are exciting. The lifelong Cubs are many of my least favorite.

  12. Rcleven

    One thing to consider for the Cubs is if they sign Garza for three years or more 10-5 rights kick in.

    1. hansman1982

      No, they’d have to sign him for 5 years and then in his 5th year, he would get 10-5 rights.

      He is currently sitting at 5.149 service time.

      1. Rcleven

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/garzama01.shtml

        Maybe I am not reading it right but BR has him at 7.

  13. ryno23

    shark turned down 5 year extension this offseason,anyone else heard this before?