Chicago’s Baseball Trade Anxiety

The MLB trade deadline is only a little over three weeks away and all the Chicago movements so far have come from Wrigleyville. The Cubs have traded away Scott Feldman, DFA’d Carlos Marmol, and last night traded Scot Hairston.  On the incoming side of the balance sheet, the Cubs and White Sox have acquired the top three international prospects in the world.  This next week will separate the wheat from the chaff as the real wheeling and dealing begin.

The Chicago Cubs are on the verge of being a top tier team. I think I’m making an objective statment because I’m not a Cubs fan.  My Chicago loyalties, if I have any at all in baseball, are alligned with the Southside.  That’s the closest I come to caring about the Cubs, so I could care less if they go another 107 years without a trophy. My beloved Red Sox have won twice in the last nine years so I’ve got no cause for complaint on that score.

The Cubs have something that no other team in the NL Central seems to have – the kind of profitability that allows them to play the trade market.  One might presume that the changes being considered for Wrigley will help the bottom line considerably. With the upgrades will come upgraded expectations from the fans.  They’ll expect a perennial contender and World Series winner.  The new owners and investors did not pay up to watch the curse continue unabated. Theo Epstein doesn’t have to do or say much because he’s got a plan in mind; no one appears to know it, probably not even Tom Ricketts.  But this Bostonian is confident that when Theo gets done with his master plan the whole No-World-Series-Since-’45 thing will be gone and the only Billy Goats in Chicago will be grazing nervously at O’Hare.

While the Cubs have made some minor tweaks to their roster, they’ve yet to move stud pitcher Matt Garza. Garza is perceived as a top-shelf player on the trade market this year and the Cubs playoff chances would be recharged with the value received for Garza.  Although he has been spent some injury time off the rotation, Garza is now starting to prove his worth on the open market to teams that know the only thing that wins in the postseason is pitching. Garza’s performance against the Oakland A’s could’ve been his finest in a Cubs uniform. The Oakland A’s are one of the best teams in the American League and with a line that read 8 IP, 5 SO, and 1 ER there’s more than a slight possibility that Hoyer was fielding calls in the aftermath of that outing. In Garza’s last four starts he’s gone at least 7 innings in each outing and has a record  of 3-0. The only no decision came when Carlos Marmol gave up four runs in the ninth which prompted his walking papers. Garza, my dear Chicago friends, is legit.

The teams that may be interested in trading for the RHP might be, in no particular order: Texas Rangers, Oakland, Atlanta, Arizona, Boston, New York, Cleveland, or the Dodgers.  The type of return that Garza might command is in the realm of deals that include names like Roy Halladay (Tor), Cliff Lee (SEA), Bartolo Colon (MTL), Erik Bedard (SEA), Josh Beckett (FLA), and Ubaldo Jimenez (COL). The trade would have to be so lucrative that the Cubs shy away from giving Garza an offer sheet this offseason and walk away from the compensation. This becomes increasingly more likely until Cuban free-agent pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzales makes his destinational decision.  Gonzales’ availability is problematic because although he’s an unknown commodity, there’s no player compensation for him – just money.  This makes him more attractive on the market because owners care less about the money than what else needs to be given up in order to get the player who may or may not put their team in real contention.

Garza’s a competitor who’s been in the postseason before with the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2008.  He beat the Boston Red Sox in the seventh game of the series at home to send the Rays to their first and only World Series appearance. This was a pitching performance for the ages, considering how the Red Sox got back into the series. Garza’s trade needs to net the Cubs some serious can’t-miss prospects or, at worst, players that can contribute right away. The Cubs have a problem at 2B with Barney’s weak production, then they need to tell Texas that all offers begin with Profar and go from there.  Or get Atlanta to give you some stud outfield hitting prospect, or have Arizona pay through the nose to miss the playoffs. The only thing the Cubs may be hesitant to do is to trade him within the division, which has its disadvantages. The far more likely event is that he’ll be moved out of the division and the league so that Epstein won’t have to face him a dozen times a year. However, if the deal is right then by all means trade him within the NL. The only thing the Theo Trio need to remember is that when it comes to moving pieces like Garza they have to know when to walk away and to avoid pulling the trigger on a deal just to do it. There’s 23 days til the deadline, so there’s no reason to rush this thing especially with the way the team is playing, and more particularly the way the wildcard can keep so many clubs thinking they’ve got a shot.

Now, looking at the White Sox situation is far easier and far less winded. The simple solution for the Southsiders is to move anything that isn’t nailed down. The team is going nowhere with this core and it needs to start turning over a new leaf from top to bottom. Matt Thornton is being sought by the Red Sox, but that a small change deal. Can the Sox move Peavy? Probably not due to his health; it’d be smarter to move him in he offseason. Should the Sox try and move on from Konerko when he won’t be qualified and will walk for nothing after this year?  Sure, but they won’t be able to get anything for him because he’s starting to turn into Jim Thome with his productivity. Should the Sox start to bring their young players up to see what the future holds?  Okay, and they’ve already started doing that. The problem is that most of the attractive pieces the White Sox have are locked up into long-term contracts that are overpriced. Nobody is gonna give up anything for Alex Rios. Adam Dunn would get shot down because of his salary and his OBP. The starting pitching is solid but if you trade anyone it’d be John Danks and he’s a solid arm who I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on especially when he does things like he did against a good Orioles team.

The White Sox have a long row to hoe, and with Robin Ventura supposedly in it for the long term, there’s got to be some sort of direction other than attracting free agents and taking the loss when they don’t pan out.