Trading Matt Garza after one year with the Cubs would be a huge mistake that would come back to haunt the team. He is one of the best pitchers in baseball and his past numbers only reaffirm that notion.
He had the best numbers on the Cubs' staff and certainly the best stuff, and coaches from Mike Quade to Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey rave about his intangibles.
Trading him would certainly net some prospects, but teams are so willing to trade prospects because they usually do not live up to the expectations. Don't get me wrong—if the right package comes along, the Cubs should at least listen—but there may be more value in keeping him in Chicago, and the rest of the article will tell you why.
At age 28, Garza is entering the prime of his career.
Since the Rays acquired him in 2008, Garza has emerged as a dominant pitcher with electric stuff. He has kept his ERA under 4.00 since 2007, and he's made at least 30 appearances each season since 2008.
He could anchor the Cubs' rotation for the next five to seven years with great success. If the Cubs are going for a World Series in that time span, Garza is the guy to anchor that rotation.
Garza has the arsenal to be an ace on any team, with a nasty two-seamer in the low 90s and a four-seamer that touches 98 mph.
What makes those pitches even more effective is that he combines them with a big, knee-buckling breaking ball, as well as a hard slider and a floating changeup. With the right combination, he can fool hitters all day long. Playing in Wrigley Field day games, where the shadow of the stadium creeps over the batter's box before reaching the mound, Garza has quite the advantage with his arsenal.
Any team would want Garza to anchor their rotation. The spots in the rotation don't mean much after everyone's first start, but slot Garza next to guy like Justin Verlander on the Tigers, or Ricky Romero of the Blue Jays, and you create a formidable one-two punch.
The Cubs can certainly do the same with Garza and Zambrano or Dempster, depending on who wants to step into that No. 2 role.
Over the past three seasons, Garza has more than proven his worth. He pitched with great success for the Rays in the AL East, and he even has a no-hitter under his belt, a feat he accomplished in Detroit in 2010.
He posted a career high 15 wins in 2010 but made hitters miss way more in 2011, which shows that he is still honing his craft. From 2010-2011, he struck out 47 more batters but surrendered the same amount of walks. Very impressive.
He also owns a 2-1 record and a 3.48 ERA in five postseason appearances. For the Cubs to make the postseason, his experience and success in the postseason will go a long way in preparing the rest of the group for the run.
Who has been the leader of the Cubs the past few years?
The Cubs had a very interesting dynamic in the clubhouse the past few years, thanks in part to Aramis Ramirez and Big Z. Kerry Wood has been a great mentor for the club, but after a brief hiatus, someone had to fill his shoes.
Zambrano and Ramirez were very cliquey, both on the bench and in the clubhouse. Almost speaking exclusively in Spanish, they were cold and unforgiving with the media but more importantly, they gave off a vibe of not really caring. That drove people crazy in Chicago.
Garza can connect with people on both sides of the border, so to speak. He is bilingual, understands the game extremely well and has the experience of postseason play and going up against the best lineups in baseball. He is more than ready to be a leader for the team and someone the fans can rely on regularly.
The Cubs were exposed this season for the weak pitching staff they have. A major reason for that was injuries, which sidelined pitchers Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner for much of the season, but there were no real options in the minors or bullpen to fill the role.
That forced the team to swallow some of its pride and sign Rodrigo Lopez and Ramon Ortiz. I'm almost embarrassed to be writing their names here, because for the most part, fans have completely forgot that they were apart of the 2011 Cubs.
Trading Matt Garza will create a major hole in the rotation, regardless of what they acquire. Travis Wood slots into the rotation now, but the Cubs need to have options because the season is long and people get hurt, and the bullpen just lost a major player in Sean Marshall, whose role is going to be filled by a combination of three unproven players.
Regardless of the return for Garza in prospects and cash, keeping Garza and going for a World Series is worth the risk given his performance.
My gut tells me the Cubs will not trade Garza this offseason, but they will shop him aggressively at the trade deadline, where his value will likely be higher than it is right now, assuming he is healthy.