Garza might have made his final start with the Cubs on Monday.
Now that Ricky Nolasco, the most obvious trade candidate in baseball, was traded from the Miami Marlins to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three minor league pitchers over the weekend, it’s time to focus on the next-most likely player to be traded, where he could end up and what the price tag will be.
Right-hander Matt Garza is pitching as well as he ever has, and the timing couldn’t have been better for the Chicago Cubs. Already expected to be one of the top available targets on the trade market, the 29-year-old has given his trade value an even bigger boost with four consecutive dominant starts (37 IP, 4 ER, 23 H, 8 BB, 34 K).
Not only does Garza appear fully healthy after missing the first month-and-a-half of the season with a strained lat muscle, he looks like he’s ready to step into the front of a rotation for a contending team.
And there’s no shortage of interest.
There were scouts from 12 different teams at his start last week, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago-Sun Times. It’s very likely that Garza has pitched his way out of the price range of at least a few interested teams.
Amid reports from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the Cubs and Garza have had talks regarding a multi-year extension, the feeling is that he'll still be traded. In an ideal world, they'd acquire two very good prospects for Garza and then sign him to a multi-year deal in the offseason to re-join Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood in the Cubs rotation.
Here are five teams that are likely to have the most interest and also are capable of putting together a strong enough trade package to make a deal.
The Diamondbacks certainly have the prospects to make a deal happen. The question is whether there is enough of a need to mortgage the future for two-plus months of Garza.
Lefty Tyler Skaggs, considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game coming into the season, stepped into the rotation for an injured Trevor Cahill and tossed three-hit ball over eight scoreless innings last week.
Consistency could be an issue—he tossed six shutout innings in his season debut in late May followed with back-to-back outings where he allowed five earned runs—but the 21-year-old is a pretty solid option for the team's fifth starter.
Another young pitcher, Randall Delgado, is doing an excellent job as a rotation fill-in for injured pitcher Brandon McCarthy. The 23-year-old was nearly acquired by the Cubs last July, but Ryan Dempster nixed the deal to Atlanta and Delgado was instead traded to Arizona in the Justin Upton deal of this past offseason.
Maybe the Cubs would ask for him again in a deal for Garza this time.
If Cahill and McCarthy come back strong from their injuries, the D'backs would have seven pretty starters to go along with one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Archie Bradley.
The concern with Arizona, however, is the lack of a reliable ace with Cahill and Ian Kennedy struggling. Rookie lefty Pat Corbin (10-1, 2.40 ERA) is pitching like an ace and Wade Miley (4.06 ERA, 11 quality starts) has been pretty good after his sparkling rookie season of 2012, but neither pitcher has postseason experience.
Garza, on the other hand, was the 2008 American League Championship Series MVP.
Adding the true ace to an already solid group of pitchers could help the first-place Diamondbacks stay on top down the stretch and give them an experienced option in the playoffs.
If they offered up Delgado or even 22-year-old third baseman Matt Davidson (pictured), who is hitting .292 with 12 homers and 24 doubles in Triple-A, along with a mid-level prospect, the Cubs could bite.
Here's what the revamped D'backs rotation might look like:
1 RHP Matt Garza
2 LHP Pat Corbin
3 RHP Ian Kennedy
4 LHP Wade Miley
5 RHP Trevor Cahill/Brandon McCarthy/Randall Delgado
As is the case with Arizona, the Red Sox have the prospects to get a deal done. The only question is whether the need is strong enough. A completely healthy Boston pitching rotation is already pretty good.
Adding Garza would likely push Felix Doubront to the bullpen. And while Garza is certainly pitching like an ace, it is just a small sample and the typical Garza really isn't that much of an upgrade over the lefty Doubront, who has a quality start in 60 percent of his starts. Garza's has a 55 quality start percentage over his career.
If the Sox felt like they needed the boost, however, it could cost them a big league-ready starter. I'd guess Allen Webster (pictured), who has struggled in the majors but had earned rave reviews for his electric stuff down in Triple-A.
The Sox could possibly ask for a negotiation window to try and sign Garza to a long-term deal before a trade is made official if they feel the asking price is too high. They should have the payroll flexibility, but all five current starters are signed beyond 2013 and their upper minor league pitching depth is strong.
My guess is that the Cubs would take Webster straight up to rent Garza through the end of the season.
Here's what the revamped Red Sox rotation might look like:
1 RHP Matt Garza
2 LHP Jon Lester
3 RHP Clay Buchholz
4 RHP John Lackey
5 RHP Ryan Dempster
Still in the thick of the AL Central race at 46-42 and only 2.5 games out, the Tribe would be wise to add a reliable front-line starter like Garza before the Tigers start playing well and run away with the division.
And according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Indians are one of the teams keeping a close eye on Garza. It's very likely that the inconsistency of Ubaldo Jimenez, as well as prospect Trevor Bauer's inability to dominate on a consistent basis in Triple-A, has them looking elsewhere for help.
While it's a good bet that Indians would have to include one of their young power relievers—right-hander Bryan Shaw or left-hander Nick Hagadone—in a trade, the centerpiece could be minor league starter Danny Salazar. He's a 23-year-old with 3.08 ERA, 23 walks and 100 strikeouts in 76 innings between Triple-A and Double-A.
Here's what the revamped Indians rotation might look like:
1 RHP Matt Garza
2 RHP Justin Masterson
3 RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
4 RHP Corey Kluber
5 RHP Zach McAllister/Carlos Carrasco/LHP Scott Kazmir
Even after acquiring Ricky Nolasco to solidify the back of their rotation, the Dodgers are still reportedly keeping tabs on Garza according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. In case you weren't paying attention over the past year, this new ownership group is on a mission to win a championship as soon as possible.
It could cost the team one of their top three prospects—Low-A shortstop Corey Seager, Double-A outfielder Joc Pederson or Double-A starting pitcher Zach Lee—but that's what you sometimes have to do when you think your team is on the brink of being championship-caliber.
One National League executive, according to this tweet by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, already thinks the Dodgers are good enough to win the NL West by 15 games.
That doesn't mean it will happen. They've underperformed at times and continue to be hit hard by the injury bug.
Acquiring Garza for Pederson (.910 OPS, 14 HR, 19 2B, 25 SB), who is blocked by a talented Dodgers outfield that is under team control for several more years, and starting pitcher Stephen Fife (pictured), currently on the disabled list stint due to shoulder bursitis, could give the Dodgers another piece to what could be one of the best rotations in baseball.
Here's what the revamped Dodgers rotation might look like:
1 LHP Clayton Kershaw
2 RHP Zack Greinke
3 RHP Matt Garza
4 LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
5 RHP Ricky Nolasco
The Rangers continue to be mentioned in Garza trade rumors and reportedly had two scouts at tonight's start, according to Bob Nightengale at USA Today. With several starting pitchers on the disabled list, they could have an incentive to get a deal done sooner than some of the other interested teams. They have plenty of talent down on the farm for the Cubs to choose from.
Although the price might have dropped slightly from when Texas nearly acquired Garza last July, it's still going to cost two pretty good prospects, possibly starting with Double-A pitcher Neil Ramirez and including a talented lower-level minor leaguer such as center fielder Lewis Brinson.
Here's what the revamped Rangers rotation might look like:
1 RHP Yu Darvish
2 RHP Matt Garza
3 LHP Derek Holland
4 RHP Alexi Ogando
5 LHP Martin Perez/RHP Colby Lewis/LHP Matt Harrison