A week into spring practice and the Chicago Cubs find themselves in a similar situation as the second half of last season, in regard to Matt Garza. The de facto ace of the Cubs staff finds himself on the shelf again, though at least the injury is related to his left side, rather than his previously injured throwing elbow.
However, the injury does raise a bit of concern regarding Garza and the Cubs. After getting hurt just before the trade deadline last year, the Cubs were unable to move Garza for impact prospects like they had hoped. And even after he was declared healthy, mostly by himself, teams still wanted to see him throw in spring training before firing up any real discussions involving the righty.
That will still probably happen at some point, but regardless of whether or not Garza pitches in spring training, the Cubs may have hurt themselves by not dealing him earlier. Despite an opportunity to do so last winter and during the season last year, the Cubs held off on dealing Garza, who represents their last real piece that could bring back a return to beef up the farm system.
But is he now carrying the burden of the “injury-prone” label? Not quite. However, that doesn’t mean that the Cubs are going to get what they had initially wanted for Garza. His recent injury history aside, Garza is a free agent after this season. Though they’ll get compensation, teams aren’t getting the two years of control that they may have had for Garza had the trade been made earlier.
At one point, Garza looked like he was absolutely going to be traded. That very well may still be the case. But as of right now, we’re looking at a guy that could be a Cub all of 2013 and in 2014. Teams are going to be reluctant to pull the trigger on Garza until he proves he’s absolutely healthy. That’s going to take a while.
Then you have the whole mess of compensation, which is why Kyle Lohse is still without a job. If the Cubs submit a qualifying offer to Garza, he could accept, or he could spend the entire winter looking for a new contract, like Lohse has and Michael Bourn did. That’s worst case scenario for Garza, though.
Of course, the Cubs could also sign him to an extension. That’s been mentioned before, but no serious dialogue has actually taken place. A deal would make sense for the Cubs though, and at this stage it may be something that they’re willing to look at a little more seriously.
The bottom line is this: Matt Garza doesn’t carry the value he once did. This was a guy that the Cubs were asking for top prospects for. Names like Nick Castellanos popped up in connection to him. That’s not the case anymore. Injury and the final year of his deal will prevent the Cubs from getting the type of package they once sought out.
Which means that the Cubs are going to have to settle for something less than what they wanted. Or they can look at it as an opportunity to bring Garza back for the long term. One of those actually makes more sense than the other. Now if Garza comes out and sets the world on fire and brings back a mighty haul at the trade deadline, that’s another story entirely.
But as of right now, keeping him appears to be the best option. And by the end of 2013, it could be the most likely.