Aside from Starlin Castro, there’s no one in the Cubs organization with higher potential trade value than Matt Garza.  That’s why his name seems to pop up virtually every other day in some trade rumor.  And while the hypothetical haul we could get for him might be tantalizing–especially for a team with so many needs and too little in-house talent to fill them–I think we should hold onto him.  Here’s why:

  • Age  Garza is twenty-eight year old.  While that’s not necessarily young in baseball years, it’s also not old.  Now would be the time to invest in him–lock him up into his early thirties, and make him the anchor of a pitching staff that may look radically different a year from now.  With Dempster and Zambrano playing for new contracts, the serial underperfomance of Wells, and the Mr. Mystery Guest-nature of our fifth starter spot (Travis Wood might be penciled in for now, but anything can between now and Opening Day), our pitching staff could be four-fifths different this time next year.  Keeping Garza doesn’t help secure any of those other spots, but it does mean we’ll have at least one reliable starter to build around.
  • Stuff  We can argue about whether or not Garza is an “ace” some other time.  What’s clear is that he was the best starter the Cubs had this season, and barring injury he probably will be again this season.  Trading away Garza might mean welcoming the Rodrigo Lopez’s and Casey Coleman’s of the world back into our starting rotation.  Maybe we could get some MLB-viable pitching in return, but it’s hard to imagine getting back a pitcher or pitchers who can replace the quality we’d sacrifice in a deal for Garza.
  • Intangibles  Don’t worry–I’m not going to use words like “grit” or “heart.”  But one thing that stood out about Garza this year was how much he pulls for his teammates.  You can’t miss him on his off days, perched behind the dugout fence on his makeshift seat, hopping up and down like an insane cheerleader every time someone crosses the plate.  Obviously I don’t know what he’s like off the field, but from what I’ve seen, he appears to be the kind of guy you want in your clubhouse.  As the Cubs get younger over the next few seasons, it will be important to have some kind of leadership in place–Kerry Wood won’t be around forever.  Garza’s appears to be the kind of guy who can help maintain some clubhouse consistency while Epstein and Hoyer rebuild the roster.
  • Price  Garza made just a hair under $6M last season.  He’s probably due for a raise this year, and who knows what he’ll be able to demand by the time he hits the free agent market.  And while there’s no guarantee he’d take it, maybe offer him something in the neighborhood of 4 years/$48M and see if he bites.  With all the money that’s coming off the books, that won’t make a huge payroll dent.  In fact, maybe Hoyer could do the anti-Jim Hendry thing and front-load the contract a bit to make him more tradeable on the back end of his deal.  I have no idea if that would be enough to lock him up for a few years–the point is the Cubs won’t know either until they try.  And looking around the current roster, where else would you like them to spend money?  Garza’s one of the few guys on the team right now you could reasonably invest in.

From where I sit, Garza is a keeper.  He’s young enough to build on, and might be cheap enough to invest in.  He’s got the measurable and unmeasurable qualities I’m looking for, and it seems to me at least that so far he’s enjoyed his time as a Cub, and would like to stick around for a while.

Of course, all that goes out the window if someone makes us a Godfather-esque offer we can’t refuse (do horse heads in beds constitute tampering in the MLB?).  But barring some blowout deal that brings back several of the missing pieces from this particular Cubs puzzle, I think we ought to keep Matt Garza.

 

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