Trading Matt Garza makes sense for the Cubs, and a certain AL club would be a perfect fit.
With the All-Star Game over and the second half of the 2013 baseball season about to resume, the next big event to look forward to is the trade deadline.
While the deadline itself is July 31, difference-making deals will be made at any point between now and then. It's just a matter of linking up the whos, the whens and the whys.
Sure, a big name like Giancarlo Stanton or Cliff Lee could get moved, but frankly, it's hard to see either of those two stars going anywhere. The Marlins would be selling low on Stanton, who's missed half the season with a hamstring injury, and the Phillies seem intent on keeping Lee (and the remaining $75 million or so on his deal) around to see if they can make a second-half run.
If you're looking for some potential trades that have a better chance of actually happening, here are a few suggestions.
Assuming Cliff Lee doesn't become available, Matt Garza is likely to be the top arm that changes jerseys this month.
The 29-year-old right-hander has helped himself—not to mention, the Chicago Cubs' chances of cashing in—by pitching extremely well over the past month or so, having posted a 5-0 record with a sparkling 1.24 ERA in his past six starts.
A free agent at season's end, Garza would be a great get for the Rangers, who have endured a rash of injuries to their rotation all season long, including Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and now even ace Yu Darvish, who's out with a back strain that fortunately isn't considered serious.
Garza would help stabilize Texas' five-man rotation, which may be getting back veteran Colby Lewis at some point in the second half, for a stretch run of what would be a fourth straight postseason appearance.
While Garza himself comes with some injury concerns—he missed the second half of last season with arm problems and the first six weeks of 2013 with a strained lat—he's also a proven performer in the American League.
On the Cubs side of things, they would be wise to sell high on Garza, as fellow MLB Lead Writer Jason Martinez wrote recently, given that his contract is expiring in a few months. The trick is to get a return that would motivate the front office to deal Garza rather than give him a qualifying offer in the offseason in order to obtain draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.
What could work is trade package built around third base prospect Mike Olt, who has had a disappointing season at Triple-A (due in part to since-solved blurry vision) but possesses above-average power and plays good defense. The 24-year-old Olt, who's blocked by Adrian Beltre in Texas, would not only give Chicago another promising young hitter for their rebuilding phase; it would also help solve the team's hot—er, cold corner in the very near future.
Garza's next start is set for early next week, but he might not even be with Chicago that long, per Jim Bowden of ESPN Insider (subscription required).
The Asdrubal Cabrera-to-Cardinals speculation has been going on for months, but there's a reason why: It makes sense.
The biggest obstacle at the moment is that the Indians have been playing better of late, and at 51-44 coming out of the break, they're only 1.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. Obviously, trading a quality starting shortstop in the middle of a division race might not be the savviest move.
So if this one is going to happen, it would likely be later in the month, perhaps even on deadline day, because it could take a full two weeks for the Indians to determine whether they really are in or out.
It's hard to say they're not in it at the moment, certainly, but even Cleveland fans would likely admit that the Tigers are the better all-around team. Part of the reason for that, of course, is that the Indians are in need of better starting pitchers, which is where trading Cabrera comes into play.
The Cardinals have so many high-end young arms that they might not even be able to fit 'em all in, so trading one or two would be logical. One of the deeper teams in baseball, the one thing St. Louis lacks is—you guessed it—a shortstop.
To solve that problem for 2013 and beyond—Cabrera is signed through next season—might St. Louis be willing to give up, say, Carlos Martinez? The 21-year-old righty flamethrower made his major league debut this year and has a bright future ahead of him, but the Cards are using him in the bullpen because the rotation is in good shape. Plus, former ace Chris Carpenter could be making his way back to help out later in the year.
Heck, Martinez could even help the Indians this year, so it wouldn't be a true "sell" situation, and he would then team with Trevor Bauer to form a dynamic duo with considerable upside going forward. And while Cleveland would miss Cabrera, they have Mike Aviles to fill in and top prospect Francisco Lindor to take over eventually.
The longer their slump goes on, the more it looks like the Giants won't really be buyers this year. So why would they be acquiring Bud Norris, you ask?
Because Norris would be an acquisition for 2014 and 2015 as much as for 2013.
The 28-year-old right-hander is under team control for two more seasons, which is the type of deal the Giants have been hunting for, given the expiring contracts of longtime starters Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.
Norris, who was born in the Bay Area, made it known earlier this year that he would love to get a chance to play for his hometown club, according to Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com:
[I]f it were to happen, it would be a dream come true for me to play for my childhood team. ... Whatever happens, I’ll be excited wherever I go to help that team or—if I stay here—to keep helping the Astros. But San Francisco is a lovely place, and I still call it home.
With the way Houston is rebuilding—reconstructing, really—it would only make sense for them to use up what may be their final big trade chip in Norris, who has shown he can be a durable starter and currently sports a career-best 3.63 ERA, albeit with a 4.35 xFIP, a decreased strikeout rate and an unsightly 1.41 WHIP.
The Astros would want some young talent in exchange, but Norris likely wouldn't net any of the top prospects in a depleted San Francisco system. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow has shown a knack for picking up once-highly touted prospects who've fallen off a bit, though, so someone like speedy outfielder Gary Brown or hard-throwing closer-of-the-future candidate Heath Hembree might get the job done.
And if the Giants were to improve over the next month and get back into the thick of the NL West—a division that is as wide open as any in the sport—Norris would become all the more helpful.
Look, if the Yankees are really going to survive all the injury problems that have left their offense in shambles and remain in contention, they're going to have to acquire a hitter—or three—even with Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and even Alex Rodriguez expected back at some point.
Justin Morneau would be about as good a fit as any other readily available bat. Not only is Morneau an impending free agent—meaning the Twins are likely to let him walk in a few months anyway—the 32-year-old lefty would also have a better chance to improve his production—and thus his free-agent stock—at the more homer-friendly Yankee Stadium, with its inviting right-field porch.
Plus, with Mark Teixeira out for the rest of 2013 but expected back next season, the Yanks don't need anything more than a quality stopgap at the position.
The question is, though, what would Minnesota need to trade a former MVP who has been a stalwart in their lineup for the past decade, and what would the Yanks be willing to move for a two-and-a-half-month rental?
While there's been plenty of talk that Phil Hughes (also a free agent-to-be) could be dealt soon, he wouldn't appeal to the playing-for-next-year Twins, as Bowden pointed out (subscription required), even if his fly-balling ways might make him a more consistent mid-rotation arm at Minnesota's Target Field.
But if the Yankees put, say, one of their young right-handers, Jose Ramirez or Jose Campos, on the table, the Twins would at least take the call. Both the 23-year-old Ramirez (currently on the Triple-A DL) and the soon-to-be 21-year-old Campos (who missed much of 2012 due to injury) may wind up as relievers, but they've also shown the ability to miss bats, which is something Minnesota needs more of.