The Chicago Cubs have a stud pitcher on their roster in Matt Garza, but the future is rather gloomy until the team actually gets him to ink his name on the dotted line for much longer than this season.
This offseason, the Cubs reached a deal with Garza in arbitration, giving him $9.5 million for the 2012 season. They will do that song and dance once again in 2013, that is unless the team can actually hammer out a long-term deal before that time approaches.
According to ESPN's Jim Bowden, Cubs' general manager Jed Hoyer sees Garza as his building block for the future, and the team would rather keep him on the North Side than perhaps having to trade him down the line.
Jed Hoyer told us today that they'd like to build around Matt Garza and hopefully sign him to long term deal rather than trading him
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) March 24, 2012
There was much speculation this offseason if the Cubs were going to move Garza, but it became quite clear that they were not interested in doing that, despite his value to other teams.
Garza appears to want to stay in Chicago as well, telling CBS Sports' Danny Knobler that he believes winning a World Series with the Cubs "could be reality soon."
Cubs fans have to like the optimism, but more importantly they should hope the mutual feeling will increase the odds of a deal being made to keep the relationship set in stone for some time to come.
Garza had one of his best seasons last year in Chicago, recording his lowest ERA of his career at 3.32. Not only that, he pitched 198 innings in 31 games while striking out 197 batters—a career high as well.
It will remain to be seen how Garza will fare on the North Side this season, but if he has similar stuff, he will once again stand far apart from the rest of the rotation.
The only other pitcher last year to start over 30 games was Ryan Dempster, who had a terribly down year recording an ERA of 4.80 in 202.1 innings with 191 strikeouts. The innings and strikeouts aren't the worst thing in the world, but the ERA was inexcusable.
The team's ERA actually ranked 14th of all National League teams last season, so they will need to continue to build around Garza with other pitchers who can keep the runs down game-in and game-out.
What Should the Cubs Do With Garza?
It is clear that Garza currently stands far apart from the rest of the team, and while they could still benefit by adding pitchers even better than him, they must make sure to find a way to keep him around for quite sometime.
For the next few seasons, Garza can definitely be the team's ace. In a few years down the line, nobody would complain with having him as a No. 2 or 3 starter in the rotation.
Hoyer and Theo Epstein know how important keeping a guy like Garza around will be for the future of this club, and with them building for the future, one can't imagine them letting one of their key in-house pieces not be there when they finally turn things around.