When Should the Chicago Cubs Trade Matt Garza?

By Joshua Huffman
Chicago Cubs Matt Garza
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza will become a free agent after the 2013 MLB season. Garza missed the last two months of 2012 because of an elbow injury. That injury may have kept the Cubs from trading him at the July trade deadline.

How does that affect the Cubs in 2013? Management has more time to decide on whether their 29-year-old pitcher is more than a stopgap player. Will they re-sign him or trade him for prospects? Should they trade him in July? Should they trade him before spring training?

Seven pitchers will compete for a spot in the Opening Day starting rotation. Only five of them will make it.  Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Garza are safe bets to make the rotation. General manager Jed Hoyer has assured Scott Feldman that he’s a starting pitcher.  If true, there’s one vacancy for three pitchers: Scott Baker, Carlos Villanueva and Travis Wood.

Baker will make $5.5 million in 2013. Villanueva will make $10 million over the next two seasons. Their salaries would suggest that they’d get the opportunities for that No. 5 spot. However, of those seven pitchers, Wood is the only one who throws left-handed.

Garza is the most polished pitcher on the staff. The Cubs could replace him with No. 4 and No. 5 pitchers. Does that make Garza expendable?

It’s an interesting scenario. Trading Garza doesn’t make much sense until he proves that his elbow has fully healed. If the Cubs wait until the trade deadline and Garza pitches well, his trade value goes up. Executives will sacrifice better prospects when they’re adding pitchers to their pennant hopefuls in July.

Trading Garza is a high-risk, high-reward type of deal. The Cubs know that Garza is a good player. However, if the Cubs trade him, they have a chance to add a quantity of prospects. The key is finding some that are higher quality. The Cubs can’t afford to lose one of their best assets for prospects who don’t pan out.

That’s why it’s important for management to take its time and not rush any decision. Wait for the perfect offer. And if that offer never comes? There’s no reason to not try and keep him after this season.

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