Reading so much of what’s out there this time of year on a day-to-day basis, I get a general sense for sentiment shifts, for which I don’t necessarily point to the dozen articles or tweets or one-liners or podcasts that give me that sense. That kind of granularity isn’t necessarily what you’re looking for, but I do think you like to get my sense on these things. With that in mind, let me say that I am perceiving a push-back against last week’s dramatic uptick in the perceived value of Matt Garza. These shifts are fascinating and subtle, but I get the feeling now that the market – by which I mean the media market – was saturated with too much of “wow, Garza is the best piece on the market and is pitching well, so he’s going to command a huge return,” and the pendulum is swinging aggressively in the other direction. He’s just a rental. He’s not an ace. He has injury issues. Maybe the Cubs are better off getting the draft pick.
The pendulum, as it does, has swung too far from center. While Garza was never going to command multiple top 50 pieces or even multiple top 100 pieces (I stand by my evaluation of his trade value here), I think folks are underestimating the importance and value of marginal wins to prospective playoff teams. As a rental, Garza stands to net his new team *maybe* a win or two. That’s if everything works out well in the second half for him. That sure doesn’t sound like much, and, if you’re the Cubs, the difference between 70 and 71 wins sure doesn’t mean much. But if you’re, say, the Indians? And a win or two could mean the difference between the playoffs and no playoffs? Between a surge in attendance and continued decline? Between an energized fan base and a listless shuffle? I don’t need sabermetrics to quantify the extra value of those marginal wins, but you can find that research out there, including this FanGraphs piece. Suffice it to say, the data backs up the instinct: the value in adding a win or two in the second half if you’re a team on the cusp of playoff contention is enormous.
The Cubs know this. And they know how much value Garza has, even if he’s just a rental who isn’t an ace. On with the latest …
- That there above is actually kind of the subject of Buster Olney’s blog preamble today, where he says front offices are confronting “Zack Wheeler Syndrome,” which is a reference to the Giants’ trade for Carlos Beltran in 2011 as a rental. They sent away top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, which was considered a huge overpay at the time. Teams are afraid of doing that today with, for example, a Matt Garza trade, because the Cubs are shooting for their own version of a Wheeler deal. If the Cubs actually expect to get a Wheeler, however, they’ll have to hope for a desperate team at the Deadline like the Giants were. In fact, the Beltran deal offers a nice comparison because, although the trade pre-dated the new CBA, the Giants were not permitted (by contract) to offer Beltran arbitration, thus making him ineligible for draft pick compensation. Recall, if the Cubs trade Garza, his new team cannot get draft pick compensation if he leaves in free agency. That was true in the Beltran deal, too (though that was unusual at the time), and the Mets still got their Wheeler.
- Patrick Mooney reports that, despite the 50/50 extension talk, Garza is privately bracing and preparing for a trade.
- From Andy Martino: “According to major league sources, Boston ranks its trade deadline needs in this order: Bullpen help, stopgap players for the left side of its infield, and starting pitching.” Martino goes on to add that the sources say the Red Sox aren’t desperate enough to pay the high price associated with Garza in a seller’s market. To me, that feels like the Boston front office trying to downplay their obvious need for a starting pitcher in the hopes of preserving a little negotiating room. Setting aside the fact that the Cubs would be able to assist their needs on all fronts, Garza remains the big piece. The Red Sox are a logical fit based not only on need, but also on the Cubs’ front office’s familiarity with the Red Sox’s system – that tends to make putting a trade together just a touch easier. Boston’s system is loaded, and even if they made their top 50 types off-limits (no, Xander Bogaerts will not be available), I think they could still put together a very compelling package.
- Jim Bowden offered a handful of “blockbusters” that he’d like to see, so we’re not talking about actual rumors here. These are just his thoughts on interesting trades, with equal value going in either direction. In one, he’s got Garza and Kevin Gregg going to the Tigers for Rick Porcello, outfield prospect Avisail Garcia, and pitching prospect Jake Thompson. Because this is not an actual rumor (and because I’m not sure how keen the Tigers would be on swapping out Porcello for Garza in their rotation if there were prospect costs on the margins), I’m not going to drill down too much on the individuals involved. Instead, I’ll just comment on the value. Porcello is an intriguing big league arm (one whom I hope the Cubs pursue in trade in the offseason) who is already making $5.1 million and has two more arbitration years ahead of him. Great peripherals, though, and he’s just 24. The other two are generally thought to be top ten prospects in a thin-ish Tigers system, so it’s about what you’d expect/hope to see in a Garza deal. If it takes Gregg to get the Cubs the right return for Garza, I’m fine with that. Do I love this particular deal? Nah. But, as I said, it’s not a rumor, it’s just a picture of value. And this sounds about right.
- Padres GM Josh Byrnes admitted that his front office was being “super aggressive” on Matt Garza until the Padres’ recent terrible swoon. That sucks, because it’s a hell of a good farm system to work with.