We’ve reached that point. Matt Garza trade rumors ramped up so incredibly over the last week, culminating in his impressive start yesterday in front of a dozen or more scouts, that it has become an Obsessive Trade Watch.
The tipping point is a report today from Jon Heyman, citing sources who’ve spoken to the Cubs and determined that the Cubs believe it will not be possible to reach an extension with Garza, who is a free agent after this season. Heyman’s report is consistent with the sense we’ve been picking up for some time with respect to the Cubs and Garza. It simply doesn’t sound like an extension remains even a remote possibility.
To put it bluntly: if there’s no extension to be had before the Trade Deadline, the Cubs are going to have to trade Garza.
That’s because the value he’d net the Cubs if he left in the offseason – a compensatory pick after the first round, assuming he stays healthy enough to merit a qualifying offer – is far lower than what they could get now in trade. If Garza is determined to test free agency, then the Cubs have to capture that value now.
Unfortunately for those hoping for an extension, Garza can absolutely refuse to negotiate now, knowing that it will force the Cubs to trade him, which will then make him ineligible for draft pick compensation after the season, thus making the offers he receives after the season more lucrative. Garza knows all of this, and you can’t blame him for wanting to become a free agent in a very weak market.
Heyman’s report also notes the huge volume of interest in Garza, who may well be the best pitcher available on the trade market. Heyman lists the Orioles, Rangers, Giants, Padres, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Blue Jays as having interest, with other teams possibly in the mix.
With that many teams involved and no extension in sight, the Cubs will have to – and will be able to – extract premium value for Garza. I still suspect the Cubs will wait for Ricky Nolasco to be dealt before moving Garza, but I wouldn’t be surprised, given the explosion of interest and Garza’s recent performances, if the Cubs deal Garza much earlier than the Deadline (and saving competing pieces like Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva for shopping later). They’ve been burned once before by waiting too long on a Garza trade, and they may not want to take that risk again now that teams are apparently plenty convinced that he’s healthy and valuable.