Matt Garza: Face of the Franchise or Trade Bait?
Matt Garza has been one of the most talked about names this off season because of the rumors that have been swirling around him since Theo walked into Wrigley. Each new day came with freshly reported destinations for the hard-throwing right-hander, in what had become a little game of should he stay or should he go? There are plenty of valid reasons why the Cubs should trade Garza, a main one being to restock the farm system we pillaged to get him. However, I believe there is enough evidence to suggest that Garza can be one of the building blocks moving forward for the new-look Cubs.
All five projection groups have Garza as the Cubs best pitcher in terms of overall production in 2012 and for the most part project his statistics fairly similarly. The two big differences between the five groups is in ERA and HR/9, two facets of the game where Garza saw career highs in year one in Chicago.
His .64 HR/9 will probably be unattainable for a second year a row if he starts 30+ games, but the projection of .99 by Steamer is probably a little too high as well. A ratio between .8 and .9 is where I would put him at, but there is always the chance that last season was a fluke in this regard. Home runs were one of the main things that plagued him in Tampa because of his inability to consistently hit his spots.
Garza likes to keep his fastball high and inside in an attempt to jam hitters. Where he gets into trouble with his fast ball is when he tries to paint the bottom corners of the strike zone. He often misses out of the strike zone with those pitches, but occasionally leaves a giant mistake down the middle of the plate. Out of Garza’s fourteen home runs given up last year, six of them were fastballs right down the middle (as seen in the chart below). This was the same issue he had in Tampa, but on a much larger scale when he averaged twelve such home runs given up a season.
ERA is the other main statistic where these five groups disagree upon. I was a little bit surprised to see no group project Garza closer to his career average in the 3.90 area, which is a testament to his career season last year. As with the rest of the projections, Steamer projected Garza the worst at 3.74 which is higher than where I feel he’ll finish at. RotoChamp is a bit ambitious, but I can see him hovering around where Fan Graphs has him at 3.54.
Where do we go from here?
As I mentioned in my other posts projections are an okay way to get an idea of the value of a player, but players often overachieve/underachieve in comparison to their projections (much like Garza last year). No projection will ever be perfect.
With that said, I think Garza will have to perform similar to last season to get the pay raise he wants from the Cubs and stay in the Windy City. He doesn’t need to have an incredible record, because much like last season his win total will be low due to the team’s offensive struggles. If he could somehow pull off fifteen wins on the year, I would probably do this.
Unfortunately there is still the chance that the end of July will also bring the end of Garza’s Cubs career to a quick end. Theo and “The Gang” has made it quite clear that they want to overhaul the farm system from top to bottom. Garza just so happens to be one of the few tradeable assets we have that could bring in top talent prospects.
Restocking for the future is always a good philosophy for a team laden with bad contracts and sitting in the NL Central basement.
Garza is one of the few players currently on this team that can truly change the Cubs’ fortunes sooner rather than later. Despite not having played to his full potential for back to back seasons at any point in his five year career, he might be the most talented starter they’ve had since Mark Prior. Garza isn’t a once in a lifetime talent by any means, but he does have the talent and age to be a top starter for Chicago once they are ready to compete. Guys likes Dempster, Wells and Maholm aren’t going to be that kind of guy. And while Garza might be able to bring in a top pitching prospect, I’m more comfortable knowing what we have in Garza than what we might get from a prospect long term.