Make A Pitch
He can be a piece of foundation
The first part of the answer to the question is simple: keep him. Signing him is a whole other story.
Garza has proven something in a year that he needed to. It would have been easy to rush himself back from his lat injury, suffered in the opening days of spring training. After all, he missed the second half last year and was entering his free-agent season with very little on his recent résumé. That's how you get paid in professional sports. Not based on what you did years ago but for what you are doing now.
In fact, Garza did rush himself back early, once, but after that setback he did things right. Many of us -- including me -- thought this might just be a lost season. A mid-April return turned into early May and then, finally, his season debut came on May 21. For all practical purposes, since his return, he's been lights out -- especially lately.
Garza is outspoken, goofy, a little strange -- but he can pitch. And pitching is the name of the game. The Cubs have been so bad in so many areas of the game their record should be worse than it is. But the Cubs' rotation has held things together. You are never as far away from winning as you think when you have good starting pitching. Keeping Garza in Chicago ensures a decent staff moving forward no matter who else is on the team. Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood make a lethal 1-2-3 combination.
An old saying applies here: once you trade Garza, you'll be looking to replace him. So why not keep him? But the price has to be right. If the Cubs didn't back up the Brinks truck for Edwin Jackson it might be easier. Garza has looked better in one start then Jackson has in all of his. Offer him three years and $50 million or something in that vicinity. Maybe he bites. And maybe in Years 2 and 3 the Cubs have a chance at winning.
I've changed my tune on Garza. Keep him.
Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com.
Keep focus on the future
Garza has been one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball over the past month. In the business of the game, Garza's marketability is at a peak. Sell high is the credo of all traders who work with perishable commodities. That theory is no different in this game.
Garza has had a few injuries that concern both the Cubs and some of their projected trading partners. A stress reaction in his forearm in 2011 and a similar injury to his elbow in 2012 are concerns to some baseball people who fear that Garza is a future elbow ligament replacement candidate. The lat injury he sustained in spring training was a minor red flag since he has thrown freely and effectively since coming back to the mound in mid-May.
More important than his injury history is how Garza fits into the player development plan. Are the Cubs ready to take a big step toward competing for a playoff berth in the top division in baseball? The answer for now and the near future is no. Garza is a better fit for a team like Boston or Texas, teams that have the other pieces in place to win over a long period of time. The Cubs have no bullpen they can project and are four or five position players away from competing with the big boys in the National League.
If Garza can bring you a couple of major league prospects, you better react accordingly. Cubs fans hate the idea of waiting for other good pitchers like Garza to come around. Patience and player procurement is what the Theo Epstein era is all about. Let the process take its proper course. Get what you can for Garza and save the $80 million investment for a time when your franchise has all the pieces in place to make a nice, long run.
Bruce Levine covers baseball for ESPNChicago.com.