Cubs have big decision to make on Garza

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
3:38
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The Chicago Cubs have a big decision to make in the next few weeks about the status of starting pitcher Matt Garza.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have been in contact with a number of teams, including the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox, all of whom have prospects to trade.

[+] EnlargeMatt Garza
AP Photo/Kathy KmonicekMatt Garza had 197 strikeouts and 63 walks in 198 innings for the Cubs in 2011.
Garza, who was 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA in 2011, is on pace to make between $8 million to $9 million through arbitration in 2012, up from a 2011 base salary of $5.9 million. If the Cubs believe that they are in a rebuilding mode for the next couple of seasons, then moving Garza now may be the most prudent thing to do.

Garza has two years of arbitration left before he becomes a free agent. If the Cubs want to build up their minor league prospects list, a trade with the Blue Jays would be a good place to start that process.

Foxsports.com reported Sunday that Toronto will not trade prospects for Garza. However they still are involved in talks, according to a major league source.

The Jays have an abundance of young starters in whom the Cubs would be interested. Kyle Drabek and Deck McGuire are two right-handed starters who could move right into the Cubs rotation. Center fielders Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick have star potential.

The Yankees have balked at trading their two top starters, lefty Manny Banuelos and right-hander Dellin Betances. The Cubs have also asked for New York’s No. 1 prospect Jesus Montero, a right-handed power hitter who had 22 home runs between Triple-A Scranton (18) and New York (4). Some scouts believe Montero will be a first baseman or designated hitter in the future.

Although the Marlins do not have the pitching depth to get Garza, they could put together a package around 19-year-old center fielder Christian Yelich, who hit 15 home runs and drove in 77 runs at Single-A Greensboro in 2011.

Detroit can offer right-handed pitcher Jacob Turner and right fielder Avisail Garcia as well as right-handed pitcher Rick Porcello, although Porcello is arbitration-eligible. Boston has luxury tax issues and may have to dump a salary in order to take on Garza’s $9 million in 2012.

The Cubs have been toying with the idea of offering Garza a long-term contract. Garza’s agent might be looking for something similar to the five-year, $65 million contract John Danks signed with the White Sox last week.

Garza continues to improve each year. Throw out the win-loss record -- Garza left a game with the lead only to end up with a no decision seven times. The 28-year-old pitcher cut his home runs allowed from 28 to 14 in the same number of innings pitched. Garza also struck out 47 more hitters last season and averaged 8.95 strikeouts per 9 innings, ranking seventh in the National League.

In the case of Garza, maybe the best trade is no trade at all.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
WJ. Arrieta 10
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167