Last year, the Chicago Cubs mortgaged a good chunk of their future for an opportunity to acquire 27-year-old Rays starter Matt Garza, and he delivered perhaps the best season of his career in his first year in Chicago.
In moving top prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee and Brandon Guyer, along with Sam Fuld and Robinson Chirinos, the Cubs severely depleted their farm system and made a move that implied that they were ready to contend now. The trouble was, that wasn't the case, as they struggled to a 71-91 record.
With the new front office duo of Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein in place, a new commitment to building the team from the ground up and mortgaging short-term assets for long-term assets has taken precedent over building to win now.
That leaves the Cubs with a tough decision to make regarding Garza, who is under team control for the next two seasons and should still come at a relatively cheap price in his second year of arbitration after making $5.95 million last year.
Following the recent trades of Mat Latos to the Reds and Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals, it has become clear that teams are willing to give up an impressive package of prospects for the chance to acquire a proven young arm, and with those two off the market, Garza may very well be the best pitcher available.
Many have speculated that the Padres could be a landing place for Garza, who are without an ace after dealing Latos, and have a valuable trade chip in now expendable first base prospect Anthony Rizzo. That could still be where Garza winds up, but there is another situation that could land the Cubs an even more impressive prospect haul.
With the Red Sox and Yankees both in need of starting pitching and with both teams having done nothing to address their rotations thus far this offseason, a bidding war for the services of Garza could very well be on the horizon.
Garza has had success in the tough AL East before as a member of the Rays, and he has been good in five postseason starts, so he has some playoff experience, making him all the more attractive to those two teams.
Both teams have some impressive prospects that they could dangle, and both teams are capable of putting together a package that would make the Cubs not even think twice about shipping Garza out.
The Red Sox could put together a deal around last year's first-round pick Matt Barnes, who has as much upside as anyone in the draft and would serve as a long-term replacement for Garza in Chicago.
From there, adding high-upside pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo to the mix along with a big-league ready pitcher like Felix Doubront or Michael Bowden and a big-league ready hitter like Ryan Kalish would make for a package similar to what the Reds gave up to get Latos.
That would be an intriguing package, but one the Yankees could easily top, as they have two of the best starting pitching prospects in baseball in Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.
Packaging one of those along with 25-year-old pitcher Hector Noesi, a solid big-league ready infielder like Eduardo Nunez and slugging third base prospect Brandon Laird would make for an offer similar to the proposed Red Sox package.
However, the Red Sox were to add Ryan Lavarnway to their package in place of Kalish, or the Yankees were to add Jesus Montero to their package in place of Nunez in order to get a leg up on the other team, they would all but assure their chances of getting Garza.
The Cubs are suddenly looking that much better moving forward, and while it may mean throwing something else in on the Cubs side of the trade, acquiring Barnes/Lavarnway or Betances/Montero would be a huge score for the Cubs and would more than make up for what they gave up to acquire Garza last winter.