Matt Garza continues to dominate in spite of constant rumors and questions that can’t make his job any easier. Last night, he threw seven easy innings, giving up just one earned run on a solo homer (on a good pitch). He allowed five hits, no walks, and struck out six. That’s just about as good as it gets … again. His season numbers are fantastic, despite that nine-run blowout at the hands of the Reds, and his last five starts have been lights out: 0.97 ERA over 37 innings, just 24 hits and 8 walks, and 34 strikeouts.
- Garza, himself, appeared to legitimize yesterday’s extension rumors, by speaking to the lingering possibility of an extension after the game. “[An extension] is always on the table,” Garza said, per Cubs.com. “I voiced my opinion about how I love it here. My family loves it here. It’s always something you think about. I don’t know which route they’re going to go …. [The possibility of an extension is] as real as a trade. Trades are just rumors like everything else. An extension talk, I’m part of, I know for a fact where it’s at. It’s always a possibility, man, 50-50. At the end of the day, it comes down to my decision if I want an extension, and a trade, it’s obviously [the Cubs'] decision. I like being a Cub, I want to get this team to October and win it here. Like I’ve said before, it’d be one [heck] of a party.”
- How sincere is that? Well, only Garza and the Cubs know. I don’t think Garza is saying that there’s literally a 50% chance that he’s extended. I think he’s saying it remains a possibility – if the Cubs meet his price – just like being traded remains a possibility. I’m sure that’s right. But I’m also sure that, unless he acquiesces to a deal that the Cubs believe gives them as much surplus value as a trade would, he’ll be dealt soon. That’s not a knock on Garza or the Cubs – it’s just the way it has to be right now, for the best of the Cubs and for the best of Garza.
- (Cynical take: Garza is smart, and knows that being traded will make him more valuable on the free agent market (because then he cannot be subject to draft pick compensation). He knows that helping the Cubs get their asking price for him will help him be traded, so he’s playing his part in building the leverage. Otherwise, maybe he fears the Cubs don’t trade him, and instead make him a qualifying offer after the season.)
- Among the teams represented by scouts at last night’s Garza start, according to multiple reports: Rangers, Indians, Dodgers, Pirates, Blue Jays, Padres, Red Sox, and Giants.
- Bob Nightengale notes that the Dodgers (together with the Indians) are “heavily” scouting Matt Garza, suggesting that the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco will not take them out of the market for Garza. Jon Morosi also says that he hears the Dodgers remain interested. Like I said when Nolasco was dealt, the Cubs could not have made out much better in that deal, which (1) took Nolasco off of the market, but (2) did not remove a buyer from the Garza market. Scott Feldman to the Orioles, who could probably still use a front-of-the-rotation starter, probably had the same effect.
- Interestingly, Morosi believes the Rangers make the most sense for Garza, which affords me the opportunity to emphasize something I’ve tried to keep at the fore of your mind: even if the Cubs want to trade Garza right now, recognizing that his value is as high as it’s going to get, they can’t control other teams. Let’s imagine that the Rangers are willing to offer the best package for Garza – far better than other teams. However, let’s imagine that the Rangers first want to wait to make sure that Cliff Lee isn’t going to become available later in July (this isn’t entirely hypothetical, as Danny Knobler reports the Rangers might be doing just that). If you’re the Cubs, what do you do? Accept a lesser package now? Or do you wait, risk an injury or ineffectiveness, because you know that you might get a substantially better package later in the month?
- The thing that everyone says in these situations: hey, why not trade Garza for prospects, and then sign him to a big deal in the offseason! Win, win, right!?!? Well, if it worked out that way, sure. But it just never, never does. The reasons are many, but usually it’s the product of competition once a guy gets to the open market. Sure, the Cubs could outbid everyone else for Garza, but he’s going to get some seriously large offers in free agency (assuming he keeps pitching well). And maybe there are hard feelings. Maybe there are reasons behind the scenes. We don’t know. But what we do know is the old trade-him-and-then-sign-him-later thing virtually never happens. It’s just the way it is. We’ll cross that bridge in the offseason, I guess.