MLB Trade Rumors: Ranking 6 Matt Garza Suitors by Fit for Chicago Cubs' Needs
Matt Garza pitched for the Chicago Cubs in 2011, but he should be with the Detroit Tigers by the third or fourth week of 2012. Trade rumors still swirl around the right-handed quasi-ace with the National League's second-best fastball and the filthy, roiling breaking ball, and five (six?) teams remain in play for him, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Pitching is the priority for the Cubs. They have star shortstop Starlin Castro and 2012 rookie Brett Jackson as offensive anchors for the long haul, but need to address a pitching staff that walked more batters than any other in MLB last season—and the year before.
Inherently, of course, that isn't the problem. It matters little what the Cubs did in 2011 or will do in 2012, because their focus is clearly on 2014 and beyond. Unfortunately, the farther down one goes, the more imbalanced the Cubs become. Their best prospects at the lower levels are batsmen. They have at most two pitchers in their system with second-starter upside.
Therefore, it comes down not only to overall talent level, but to addressing a need that should be glaring in the Cubs franchise for some time, unless urgently addressed. The Cubs are going to get a fine price for Garza; the question is who will be paying it. Here are the six teams truly in play, ranked from six to one according to which best fit the Cubs' needs and demands.
6. New York Yankees
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Jesus Montero is going to be untouchable, and without him, it's hard to build the right package for the Cubs to feel they get the greatest value out of sending Matt Garza to the Bronx.
Heyman ranked the Yankees as likely heavyweights in this sweepstakes, thanks to their pair of top pitching prospects, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.
Here's the problem there: Banuelos and Betances are overrated assets. Because they are Yankees prospects, fans hear their names twice as much as they hear, for instance, Jordan Lyles (Astros), Mike Minor (Braves) or Neil Ramirez (Rangers). Those guys, though, are the kind of company the two hurlers keep in prospect rankings and scouts' opinions.
Betances is a huge right-handed hurler, but at 23, he is beginning to trend old for a true prospect and hasn't established the kind of command he would need in order to start at the big-league level. He's probably a reliever, and relievers are inherently fungible.
Banuelos is a bit more interesting, but he didn't progress especially impressively in 2011. He has a walk rate of roughly five per nine innings against Double- and Triple-A competition, and since he's undersized, he must have command in order to be durable and valuable.
Two pitchers with name recognition as their top tool is not much of a return for two years of a solid front-line partner to CC Sabathia, but it's likely to be the best offer the Cubs get from New York. This is an odious fit.
5. Miami Marlins
The Marlins simply lack the farm depth to put together anything about which the Cubs would get especially excited. Their pitching is not much better than that of the Cubs, if it is at all, and a lot of their top positional prospects are risky buys.
Christian Yelich is a younger prototype for Brett Jackson, with a slightly higher ceiling but with the downside of being a likely left fielder. He is the jewel of the Marlins' system, the guy who could be an impact addition, but the Cubs would need more, and there isn't much there. The Marlins would not consider giving up Yelich and fellow outfield prospect Marcell Ozuna together, so it's hard to see what kind of deal the two sides could broker.
First baseman Gaby Sanchez and Yelich would make the most plausible and intriguing combination.
4. Boston Red Sox
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Trading for prospects is risky business. Study after study have revealed that the informational advantage—be it about makeup, injury potential or overall developmental philosophy—that a team enjoys when it develops a player from draft day to debut is meaningful.
That's about the only good reason to consider a trade of Garza to the Red Sox. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod know the Boston system as well as perhaps any in the league, which dampens the risk involved in investing in those players.
On the flip side, the Red Sox don't have much with which they would be willing to part. Might Ryan Lavarnway be available? Sure. That would be about all the Cubs could get, though, and if Lavarnway were ever forced to drift out from behind the plate and play first base, his value would plummet.
Xander Bogaerts, we can safely assume, is off-limits. No trade built around any of Boston's high-upside 2011 draft choices is feasible, because they would not be eligible to be dealt until August, and that's too long to have a player you have invested in playing for another organization.
Truth be told, the Sox's system is plenty deep enough for the Cubs to pick up a solid piece or two in exchange for Garza, even after Boston dealt for relievers Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon earlier this winter. It likely isn't worth it, though, especially because Boston could start trying to make the compensation due to them for Epstein's departure a part of the negotiations.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
Kyle Drabek could be part of the package for Garza, according to Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune. That's hard to believe, because dealing a player at the nadir of his value is sort of the opposite of the Alex Anthopoulos paradigm. Drabek's 2011 nightmare means he would be no better than the third (or second by a very wide margin) best prospect in a deal, and that feels wrong at both ends.
Still, whereas the first three teams listed were poor fits, the Jays are one of three teams who could comfortably satisfy the Cubs' asking price and benefit greatly from landing Garza.
Anthony Gose and Travis d'Arnaud are the elite positional prospects who top the system, and while both are terrific, neither is likely available in a Garza deal. No matter. The Cubs would surely prefer to focus on the Jays' bevy of pitching talent, especially in the lower minors.
Daniel Norris came to the Jays in the 2011 draft and wouldn't be a candidate for inclusion, but Justin Nicolino, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Deck McGuire, Drew Hutchison and Asher Wojciechowski would be available for mix-and-match pairing. Drabek could fit in with two lesser of those.
Outfield prospect Jake Marisnick would also be available, though the Cubs would only be able to add one from the back end of the above list in such a trade. There are opportunities here, but the Jays would have to decide for certain that they want to shoot the moon within the next two years.
*On a personal note, if it's going to be the Jays, they should press for Syndergaard and Wojciechowski, eh? Get the optimal Scrabble value for the investment.
2. San Diego Padres
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Epstein and Hoyer are the top dogs, but Jason McLeod has a booming voice on prospect and player-development issues within the Cubs hierarchy. He built the Padres' overwhelmingly deep system seemingly from scratch, so that counts for something. The premise is the same that applied to the Sox: You know your own guys (or the guys you have known the most about for the longest time) best.
If there's any guy who irresistibly fits both the Cubs' needs and the front office's preferences, it's Anthony Rizzo. The displaced Padres' first base prospect would be the safest and most comfortable headliner to a Garza deal of any that can be reasonably cooked up.
Beyond Rizzo, there are a ton of interesting players in the San Diego system. Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland, (former Boston farmhand) Casey Kelly and Keyvius Sampson are the high-ceiling pitchers in whom Chicago would take keen interest. There are no shortage of positional guys, either.
The biggest question about this scenario is whether the Padres have any interest in such a deal. They're as opaque as the Chicago White Sox right now. Like the Sox, they're nobody's 2012 darlings, and are ostensibly rebuilding. Yet, they have hardly behaved as such this winter. They did deal Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds, but they got a first-base upgrade in the near term out of that deal.
They also got a replacement, if a shaky one, for Latos in Edinson Volquez. They also dealt prospects to land Carlos Quentin from the aforementioned White Sox, and added closer Huston Street via trade with the Colorado Rockies in December. It's very possible that a prospect infusion at midseason could make them semi-competitive in 2012, and by 2013, this team could be really in the hunt.
That sets up a Garza deal. San Diego could get Garza for much less than they got in the Latos trade, thereby creating a net gain and retaining a top-flight starter for a run at the playoffs this coming year or next. It's a perfect fit for the Cubs, if only the Padres commit to it.
1. Detroit Tigers
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True packages of prospects are rare. That's what make the trade possibilities with the Blue Jays and Padres so tantalizing: The depth in their systems creates a real chance of getting multiple useful pieces in a single trade without the other team emptying its cupboards.
There are drawbacks, though. In general, trading a single player for a prospect bundle nets only one real gem, and only one true success story long-term. Matt Garza is not Mark Teixeira, and no one will make a similar mistake to the one the Braves made a few years ago anytime soon. The Cubs should focus on acquiring the best individual asset within reach when they make this trade.
Jesus Montero, Travis d'Arnaud, Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and possibly even Christian Yelich look to be off-limits in trade talks. That means that the best single prospect available in any of the five systems mentioned until now would be one of Jake Marisnick, Anthony Gose, Manny Banuelos and Anthony Rizzo. They're fine, but none is a top-50 prospect in the minors heading into 2012.
Jacob Turner is a top-20 guy. Turner is the game-changing sort of player one hopes to acquire when shopping a major asset. He might be a better bet to deliver 20-plus WAR over the next half-decade than any two Blue Jays hurlers, especially because he is already big league-ready.
The Tigers would include Turner for the "right pitcher," according to Buster Olney of ESPN. Since that news came after both Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez found new homes, it's hard to imagine Garza doesn't meet that criterion.
Getting Turner, and Turner alone, for Garza would be a win for the Cubs. The 20-year-old rookie is big, strong and has a great feel for his breaking ball. It's possible the Cubs could extract even more than Turner from Detroit in a potential deal, but they need not push it. If Turner is available, he has to be Chicago's top target.