In January 2011, the Chicago Cubs acquired Matt Garza along with Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup. Chicago sent Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld to the Tampa Bay Rays in return. While the deal seemed steep at the time, after the season Garza had in 2011, he could be traded for even more this offseason.
According to FanGraphs, Garza finished 2011 with career bests in ERA, xFIP and WAR. With a WAR of 5.0, Garza is among the elite in the National League and should attract trade offers comparable to what Kansas City got for Zack Greinke, or slightly better than what Tampa Bay got last offseason for Garza's services.
Garza is 28, under team control for two more seasons and has improved every season. The Cubs possess a vital trade piece in a down market and can rebuild the farm by trading Garza. With the Cubs' glaring needs at multiple positions on the Major League level, Garza presents an opportunity for the team to restock and rebuild more quickly than predicted.
In the American League, Garza is a proven No. 2 starter who would allow Neftali Feliz to settle into a starting role with the ball club. The prospects in this package would immediately help the Cubs as well.
The centerpiece would be Mike Olt. He is a prototypical third baseman with power, recently hitting .310 in the Arizona Fall League. Tanner Scheppers is a young reliever who had 44 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings between AA and AAA. Engel Beltre is an outfielder who, while only 21 years old, has five years of professional experience and could be a potential starter in the corner-outfield positions.
With a rotation consisting entirely of right-handed starters, Chicago needs to acquire some left-handed pitchers.
Matt Harrison, in his first full season of starting, had a very respectable 14-9 record with a 3.39 ERA. As we saw firsthand with Matt Garza, pitchers that come over to the National League tend to have even better numbers in their first season in the league.
Neil Ramirez is a right-handed pitcher who shot up through the Texas farm system in 2011, playing in three levels and amassing 118 strikeouts in only 98 innings of work. Texas is well stocked with pitching, and Ramirez would be replaced within the system.
Tommy Mendonca is a plus defender at third base, who is blocked until 2015 by Adrian Beltre at third base on the Major League level.
Would Geovany Soto Have to be Included?
These packages, in the end, won't consist solely of Matt Garza, especially with the prospects Theo Epstein and the front office will be asking for.
With Toronto, there is a need for pitching, and with a stocked cupboard of catching prospects, would they be willing to part with top catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud?
With a slash line of .311/.371/.542 in AA, D'Arnaud is quickly approaching Major League-ready. J.P. Arencibia is entrenched at catcher, and Carlos Perez is in line to take over in 2014. Could Geovany Soto be added to sweeten the deal for the Blue Jays?
Edited: Adam Loewen was originally listed as a possibility, but signed with the Mets on November 22nd.
While trading within your division is generally frowned upon, this deal would satisfy both parties.
Chicago would receive a first baseman that is Major League ready and under team control for the next five seasons. Cincinnati would receive a top-of-the-rotation (NL-wise) starter to pair with Johnny Cueto and fix some of their pitching woes from last season, and the Reds are already content with Joey Votto.
The trade would likely include pieces from both sides, but the true reason this deal would get done is because of Alonso and his potential to be an offensive force for the next five years.
In that same article, the idea was brought up that perhaps a deal like this could happen for Matt Garza. All three Yankees players have tremendous upside, and while the Giants offer included Nick Swisher, I doubt he would need to be included for Theo Epstein to strongly consider the deal.
Arizona acquired Tyler Skaggs in the Dan Haren trade with the Los Angeles Angels, which also brought Joe Saunders to the Diamondbacks. Saunders is now a free agent and will likely price himself out of Arizona's reach after a successful 2011 campaign.
The Cubs can offer Garza, who will be a cheaper and more productive alternative than Saunders.
Chicago has the upper hand in nearly every scenario, because they're not being forced to trade Matt Garza. Therefore, Skaggs is a reasonable asking price.
Davidson and Borchering shared time in AA at the same position and produced similarly, and either would be a great grab for Chicago. Both are capable at first and third. Davidson is projected to debut in 2012 and Borchering a year after that.
Pairing Matt Garza with Dan Haren could start the Jerry DiPoto era in Anaheim on the right foot. But it would cost the Angels two of their most promising infielders, one of whom could make an immediate difference for the Cubs.
Cowart is a switch-hitting third baseman who is a converted pitcher. While he won't be big-league ready until 2014, the potential for his bat and his plus-size arm are undeniably appealing.
Amarista has already played 23 games at the Major League level and could further shore up the middle of the infield, perhaps even moving Darwin Barney to third. Only 22, Amarista provides a left-handed bat that has been compared to a "poor man's Jose Reyes."
Anytime the Miami Marlins are mentioned, Carlos Zambrano must be as well. Pairing Garza with a subsidized Zambrano could net the Chicago Cubs two of the Marlins' brightest prospects.
Matt Dominguez made September callups for the then-Florida Marlins, but with the potential signing of Jose Reyes and the subsequent move of Hanley Ramirez to third base, Dominguez could be stuck. He is the No. 1 third-base prospect as rated by MLB.com and would give the Cubs plenty of time to develop Junior Lake and Josh Vitters.
Chad James is a left-handed pitcher with three pitches evaluated at "plus" potential. With an ETA of 2013, he would fit nicely into the rotation on a contending Cubs squad.
Matt Garza would be the third option in the Seattle Mariner's rotation, which would be a change of pace for the typical top-of-the-rotation pitcher. With Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen coming through the Seattle farm system, that's a very scary starting five for the American League.
Ruffin and Cortes are relievers with power stuff and Major League experience (Ruffin has the potential to start, if needed). Robles translates to a solid No. 4. With the Cubs system stocked with starting pitchers, Ruffin and Cortes could fill the bullpen should Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol be traded away.
Compensation. What is Theo Epstein worth? That's the question that still hasn't been answered, and Garza was the first piece that the Red Sox asked for. A general manager may build a team, but he is not worth a player of Garza's caliber.
A trade like this would have to include either a subsidized Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Zambrano in addition to Matt Garza.
Middlebrooks is a prototype third baseman that the Cubs need, with Ranaudo and Britton slated to be ready to join the pitching staff in 2013.
The players in a Garza deal with Boston would be from Epstein's time with the Red Sox, so the talent has already been evaluated accordingly. It would also satisfy the ongoing compensation discussions and keep the Commissioner's Office from stepping in.