Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza at Wrigley Field. IMAGE: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Diamondbacks have supposedly lost out on the Matt Garza deal. Of course, we do not really know how active the team was in trying to acquire the right-handed starter from the Cubs, but multiple reports had the team in the mix. The price is supposedly high, but just how high? Should the Diamondbacks be willing to up the ante to land the veteran pitcher?
First, let’s take a look at just what the Texas Rangers were willing to give up in exchange for a few months of Garza:
- Mike Olt, 3B (1st Rnd, 2010): 24-years old, having his worst season as a pro, hitting .205/.310/.388 in AAA. Previously considered to be one of Texas’ key building blocks for the future despite mixed scouting reports. #2 Rangers prospect prior to the season according to John Sickels of minorleagueball.com (grade: A-).
- Neil Ramirez, RHP (1st Rnd, 2007): 24-years old, mowing down AA pitching with over 11 K/9, but a high walk rate (3.78 BB/9). Got burned in AAA last year, repeating AA, looks primed for a promotion. #18 Rangers prospect prior to the season (grade: C+).
- C.J. Edwards, RHP (48th Rnd, 2011): 21-years old, playing in the SAL (Single-A) and has been simply dominant over 93+ innings. Needs a promotion, could skip A+ and go straight to AA. #17 Rangers prospect prior to the season but has increased his value significantly with his 2013 performance (grade: C+).
There is a chance there could be some additional filler added, but let’s just evaluate this potential trade given the names above since that is all we really know. What would Arizona have to trade in order to match this kind of deal?
Matt Davidson hits a two-run home run in the fourth inning during the 2013 All Star Futures Game. IMAGE: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
One could safely swap out Olt with Matt Davidson, who is blocked at every foreseeable position on the Diamondbacks’ roster. He would probably be viewed as an upgrade over Olt given his recent struggles. Davidson is two years younger, was just named as the MVP of the Futures Game and won the AAA Homerun Derby. His stock is much higher than Olts’ at the moment. He was the #4 preseason prospect for Arizona (grade: B).
A reasonable comparison to Neil Ramirez of the Rangers could be Chase Anderson of the Diamondbacks. He was a little old for his league in AA but a recent promotion to AAA fixed that. Anderson does not quite have the same swing-and-miss stuff, but he walks fewer batters. Maybe a slight downgrade, but given the advantages of Davidson over Olt, I would say it is even at this point. He was the #14 preseason prospect for Arizona (grade: B-).
The Cubs were likely most thrilled to have CJ Edwards coming their way from Texas, but the Diamondbacks could send something nearly as exciting in Jake Barrett, who has just been promoted to AA after destroying A+ batters. He is a reliever all the way, which diminishes some of his value, but he is one of the premier young closers in the game. It is debatable whether Texas would have been as excited about him as Edwards, but one can make a case for it. He was the #16 preseason prospect for Arizona (grade: B-).
If this package could have gotten Garza from Chicago, the team should have pulled the trigger immediately. Unfortunately, I doubt this would do it. Theo Epstein knows that Arizona has more marquee arms in the minors in Archie Bradley and David Holmberg. I am guessing he was insistent that Holmberg be included in a potential deal. In that case, a fair swap would be to keep the two pitchers listed above, Anderson and Barrett, and include Holmberg in their place. That would effectively send to two highly-regarded prospects to the Cubs in exchange for Garza.
That is a pretty steep price, especially when we consider one detail: Arizona is interested in acquiring a pitcher that can stay with the team for the next several years. Garza’s deal is up at the end of the season. So why would Kevin Towers even consider this deal in the first place? In addition to acquiring Garza for the rest of the season, Towers was also hoping to secure a head start in negotiating an extension for the righty. The Diamondbacks would have never jumped into the fray if they did not think there was a chance to lock up Garza for a few more years.
Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein talks to the media at Wrigley Field. IMAGE: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Is that something the team should be trying to do? Well, Garza is not the most durable guy in the world, but at 29, he should have several good years left in the tank. He has outperformed his peripherals for a long time, meaning that his ERA is usually lower than the quality of his true performance. He does not strike a lot of guys out but keeps his walks down, gets groundballs and limits homeruns. Wrigley and Chase are both hitters’ parks, so I would not expect a big change if he were to come to the desert.
Arizona is clearly in need of a quality starter or two. Nobody is going to refute that. Davidson does not have a home on this roster, so he is going to have to get moved at some point and his present value is higher than it will probably ever be. Holmberg is highly-valued by the organization and while he is not a “power arm,” he could contribute as early as mid-2014. Moving him is questionable.
What the whole deal boils down to is the future extension of Matt Garza. He is currently making $10.25 million and would probably be looking for a bit of a raise. Three years for $38 million or four years for $50 million might get it done, but it is not clear how long a deal he and his agent are looking for. Given his age, Garza is probably looking for longer-term deal and any team should be skeptical about long-term contracts with pitchers given their volatility.
If Towers and Company felt that they could work a deal out with Garza that was in the best interest of the team, I think they would be willing to put the pieces in necessary to get the deal done. They are probably reluctant to part with valuable pieces for an uncertain bargaining situation, and they should be.
Without knowing the exact details, I think Arizona is wise to let this deal pass. Olt and Holmberg or others can be flipped this winter if necessary. It would be a blow to the organization to deal these guys only to be unable to agree upon a contract extension with Garza. Sure, we will have to wonder what might have been and watch a few more ugly starts than we might otherwise have had to endure, but the long-term implications point in the direction of Towers making a smart decision.
Note: the potential deal between the Cubs and Rangers has hit a snag, likely due to the medical records of a player involved. This may open things back up for the Diamondbacks as the Cubs clearly want to maximize Garza’s deal. More likely, however, is that Chicago and Texas work out a reasonable alternative, so don’t hold your breath.