I know this is going to be a bit of a futile exercise, but I think it'll be fun and so we'll proceed as if I didn't mention this sentence. Rival executives told Jon Heyman of SI.com that they expect the Chicago Cubs to trade Matt Garza over the winter as the team retools under new president Theo Epstein.
He's essentially the one piece that the Cubs have that's truly going to be in command this winter, unless they make shortstop Starlin Castro or catcher Geovany Soto available. If the Cubs want to add some premium young pieces to their farm system, and they need to, this is essentially the key opportunity. I'll note that the Cubs already gave up numerous quality young pieces to get him in the first place, including top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee, so in some sense they're basically trying to recoup value here.
Luckily for Chicago, Garza had a fantastic season for the Cubs, posting a 3.32 ERA and 2.95 FIP over 198 innings in his first season in the National League. It was easily the best season of his career, and has established Garza as one of the top pitchers in the league. That frankly wasn't a sure thing before the 2011 season.
So getting to things, I wanted to speculate on what kind of deals Garza could command. This is a very good pitcher that's going to be under team control for two seasons. MLBTR projects him to make $8.7 million in 2012 through arbitration, which would put him in line for a salary over $10 million in 2013. Even so, two years at roughly $20 million for a pitcher of Garza's caliber is a serious bargain, which explains why he's going to be such a strong asset on the market. Below the fold, I'm going to go through some suitors and what the Cubs might be able to command from them.
Realistically, the Cubs aren't going to be able to get that much for Garza. He's a very good pitcher, but he's not exactly cheap over the next two years. I think they'll probably be able to command a solid grade B+ prospect, as well as a good grade B prospect and another solid low-level piece with some upside. Here's what I think deals from a few teams could look like, using that idea as a guideline.
Offer: 3B Will Middlebrooks, OF Brandon Jacobs, LHP Felix Doubront
This would be a pretty solid offer from Boston, in my opinion. Middlebrooks is their top prospect, and he would fit nicely as Chicago's new third baseman starting in 2013. Jacobs would give them an impact athlete with some serious upside in the outfield, and Doubront is near MLB-ready although he struggled some in 2011.
Offer: C Gary Sanchez, RHP David Phelps, 2B Angelo Gumbs
If the Cubs can pry either Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos, I'm guessing they'd prefer that over Sanchez. But this is a reasonable offer, with the Cubs getting two high-upside position prospects that are a few years away as well as a solid near MLB-ready pitcher that could fill a spot at the back of the rotation.
Offer: LHP Martin Perez, 3B Christina Villanueva, LHP Miguel De Los Santos
The Rangers may not be willing to give up Perez, in which case names like Mike Olt and Robbie Ross become obvious targets. Chicago may demand Perez, though, because otherwise it's hard to see the Cubs getting a legitimate premium prospect in return.
Offer: 3B Ian Stewart, RHP Chad Bettis, OF Tim Wheeler
Stewart isn't a prospect and he's going to cost a couple million for 2012, but the Cubs need a third baseman and he's certainly got some potential. In addition, Bettis is a quality power arm with upside if he doesn't end up in the bullpen, and Wheeler's breakout in 2011 could have him replacing Alfonso Soriano in the Cubs outfield in 2013. It's unclear if the Rockies are willing to give up this kind of talent, but they could use a front man for their rotation and don't want to waste the primes of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
Offer: 1B Gaby Sanchez
This one is just me totally thinking outside of the box. The Marlins want an impact pitcher for the next couple years. Giving up Logan Morrison would be totally excessive for Garza. Sanchez is under team control through 2015, and would give the Cubs a cheap, solid first baseman long-term. It would allow the Marlins to move Morrison back to first base while adding that impact arm. The Cubs may want prospects that don't hit the majors for a year or two, though, given the team's spot on the win spectrum.
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