Chicago Cubs: Trade Bait Matt Garza Picks Bad Time to Struggle

Bob Warja@@bobwarjaSenior Writer IJuly 6, 2012

They say that timing is everything. For Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the Cubs, this is the absolute worst possible time for Matt Garza to pitch poorly if they want to trade him.

Garza's season has not been nearly as good as it was in 2011, and he has been stinking up the yard of late. In fact, Garza has allowed seven runs and 14 hits over his last 9.1 innings. On Thursday evening, he allowed three homers to the Braves.

Meanwhile, Garza isn't using all of the rampant trade speculation as an excuse for his poor pitching performances. According to Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago, Garza said, “It doesn’t affect what I do on the mound.”

Well, if that's the case, then what is the problem? His arm seems fine as he is still throwing 95 mile-per-hour fastballs. But his control has been off—Garza has walked six batters over his last nine innings after walking just eight of the batters he faced in his last eight starts combined.

For a team that isn't ready to win yet, their main objective should be dealing veteran players for multiple pieces in order to expedite the rebuilding process and restock the farm system. While Garza is a guy you could certainly build around, he would still likely bring a couple of solid prospects in return.

But how much are Garza's recent struggles going to affect his trade value? Other teams will surely note the fact that he is a solid No. 2 or 3 starter who has competed successfully in the rough-and-tumble American League East and in the postseason.

His win-loss record shouldn't give teams any concerns, as intelligent baseball people know not to judge a pitcher by such a highly variable stat.

Yet even advanced metrics tell the story of a starter who is struggling. He has gotten through the seventh inning in just one of his last 11 starts, though he has only been really bad in four or five starts this season.

But now that teams are getting into trade mode and have their scouts watching Garza, he starts to pitch poorly. Then again, it's not as if the Cubs have ever been blessed with good luck, right?

Major League scouts had their radar guns firing and were taking notes watching Garza at Turner Field on Thursday, but what they saw was a pitcher who couldn't even make it through five innings. He certainly didn't look like Grade-A trade material.

But rest assured, Cubs fans: Garza claims he's embarrassed by his performance and he sounds like a man who can't wait to turn things around.

"Believe me I will come out (angry) and it will be one hell of a second half," Garza told Padilla.

Maybe it's Epstein and Hoyer who should be angry. Their most valuable trade asset is certainly not helping them get their money's worth.

Make no mistake—they must trade Garza. He's simply too good for the Cubs to keep around. He's a luxury a rebuilding team just can't afford.

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