Jon Morosi of Fox Sports has an update on Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza, who has been one of the biggest names on the trade market this year. Morosi says that five teams had scouts at Garza’s last start. The Texas Rangers had two scouts watching Garza, while four other teams had one each. The Pirates were one of those teams with a scout in attendance.
This is the time of year where a scout being in attendance usually sparks a trade rumor. The truth is that a scout in attendance doesn’t necessarily mean a team is interested in trading for a guy, and it definitely doesn’t mean you should pencil that guy in any future rotations or lineups. Morosi notes that the Padres were in attendance, but look like sellers at the deadline. He also says that the Blue Jays were in attendance, but are probably more interested in Garza as a free agent after the season.
As far as the Pirates, he says they don’t have an urgent need for rotation help with A.J. Burnett back, although they could become more interested if Garza is available later this month. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe Morosi is just predicting that the Pirates will have another starting pitching shortage later in the month, since they seem to have a starter going down once every few weeks.
It’s not a guarantee the Cubs will trade Garza. They’ve been talking about trying to sign him to a long-term deal, although that has the feel of a negotiations tactic to try and get a better trade return.
Garza is making $10.25 M and is a free agent after the season. His trade value (if you put him as a 3 WAR pitcher) is $4.7 M. He’s a rental, so he doesn’t have a high price. Even if you put him at his best year (4.8 WAR), he’d have a value of $8.8 M for the rest of the year.
The $5 M value is equal to a Grade B hitting prospect. A lot of the names Morosi mentions are ranked higher than that. He mentions Martin Perez, Joey Gallo, and Mike Olt from Texas, and Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin from Cleveland. He says the Indians probably wouldn’t deal Lindor. If you’re looking for equal valued prospects from the Pirates system, you’re probably talking about Alen Hanson, Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, Nick Kingham, or Luis Heredia. If the Rangers were offering Olt, for example, then I don’t think the Pirates would have a shot unless they offered Hanson.
That might sound like a lot for a rental,
although Garza would almost certainly fetch a draft pick at the end of the year. That would give the Pirates an extra pick in the 11-30 range of the first round of the 2014 draft. That would ease the pain of losing a top prospect for a rental, since you’d be getting a top prospect back a year later. (UPDATE: Forgot about the new rules that say you can’t get a compensation pick for a rental.) The question is whether the Pirates would need to go through that process to add a starter. They have a good rotation now, and Wandy Rodriguez could be the equivalent of a trade deadline acquisition when he returns. On the flip side, a rotation of A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, and Matt Garza would be pretty powerful for the remainder of the year if everyone stays healthy (and health has been an issue for Garza the last two years). I know everyone’s focus is on offense, but the Pirates have been winning because of pitching and defense, and this would only strengthen that.
Of course all of this is hypothetical discussion, since we don’t know if the Pirates were even looking at Garza as a trade option. And if they were, we don’t know for sure that the Cubs are dealing Garza or extending him. I think it’s going to be the former, and if that’s true, we don’t know if the Cubs would prefer the prospects the Pirates would have to offer (most of the guys mentioned above are in A-ball) compared to the guys the Rangers have to offer (who could provide more immediate help). We also don’t even know if my list of prospects is what it would take, or if the Cubs would want one of Jameson Taillon or Gregory Polanco instead (in which case, absolutely not).
What we do know is that the Pirates have the prospects to make a deal like this, they’d probably get a slightly lesser valued prospect back next year, and adding a pitcher would strengthen the part of the team that has been the reason the Pirates are winning this year. It wouldn’t be a bad approach for them to take this month.
UPDATE: Now that I have been reminded that you don’t get a compensation pick for a rental, I wouldn’t make the deal. The Pirates would be better off going with their current rotation, hoping for Wandy Rodriguez to return in August, and making smaller deals to upgrade the offense and bench. If they do address the rotation, it would probably be better to go for a smaller deal, rather than dealing a top prospect for a rental.