How Will Matt Garza's Injury Affect Trade Talks this Winter?

Most people expected Matt Garza to be gone.  He was one of the top trade targets this summer, and the Cubs made it no secret that they planned to deal him.  However, injuries essentially ended any trade possibilities during the season.  Garza is now out for the rest of the year, and the Cubs will revisit trade talks this winter.  But with injury comes doubt.  Has Garza's trade value been affected?

Garza made his last start on July 21st.  On July 28th, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with what was considered cramping in his arm.  However, it was later diagnosed that Garza had a stress reaction to the bone above his right elbow.  The Cubs moved him to the 60-day DL on August 21st and told Garza he wouldn't pitch again this season.  The injury required rehab that would have kept Garza out until the final week of the season anyway, but rather than let the 28-year old right-hander pitch in the final week, they simply shut him down for the year.

Garza still has one more year of team control with the Cubs.  He is arbitration-eligible next season meaning the Cubs will either have to negotiate a contract with him or go to arbitration to determine his value.  Under normal circumstances, an arbitrator would likely give Garza a nice bump from his $9.5 million 2012 salary, but considering the injury, the raise may not be that significant.  Regardless, the Cubs may not want to pay even a pro-rated portion of Garza's 2013 salary.  They are in the process of a total overhaul, and if they can get the same return on Garza during the winter, they may not wait until the July 31, 2013 deadline to deal him.  However, Garza's injury likely means he will not command the same return as he would have had been dealt while healthy.  The Cubs may have no choice but to wait and see how Garza does in the first half of 2013 in hopes of raising his value.

Matt Garza was 5-7 with a 3.91 ERA this season.  He only started 18 games, but the ERA was a step back from his 2011 ERA of 3.32.  In his career, Garza has a 3.84 ERA and has generally been an innings eater.  Even in this new world of innings limits and pitch counts, Garza managed to toss over 200 innings in back-to-back seasons, 2009 and 2010.  Excluding this season, Garza has pitched 180 or more innings in for straight seasons.  He's flat-out been a workhorse - a dying breed in baseball.

Yet his overall value (bWAR) hasn't reflected the benefit of having a young starter who can throw a lot of innings.  Garza, in seven seasons, has only accumulated 11.9 bWAR.  He peaked at 3.3 in 2009, but has been on a relatively steady decline since (aside from a 2.5 bWAR season in 2011).  Arbitration dollars are much different than free agent dollars, but if Garza were to play through 2013 without a contract extension from anyone, and assuming he put up his career per-season average for WAR (1.7), he would be worth about $8.5 million per year using the $5 million per win formula.  This is less than he's currently making.

Combine Garza's current salary and what he will make through arbitration next season with the fact that he is coming off an injury, and it's a safe bet to assume his trade value has dropped significantly.  The Cubs got Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva from the Rangers for Ryan Dempster this season.  And Dempster, while older, was having a much better year.  Garza has a lot of years left in him, which in and of itself is valuable to a team, but his injury will be concerning to many teams.  A winter trade is unlikely for this exact reason.  Teams could be, and probably should be, wary of Garza until they see what he does in 2013.  If he performs at a high level, show little to no signs of fatigue, and looks as if he may add value to a contender, his trade value may rise back to the level it was this summer.

Garza has been almost a constant member of the trade rumor club since Theo Epstein took control of the front office in Chicago.  This summer may have been the peak of those rumors, and the peak of Garza's value.  Whether it was an unwillingness to pull the trigger, or the right deal simply didn't come along, the Cubs inability to trade Garza hurt them.  He suffered his injury, was shut down for the year, and will basically be a question mark heading into next year.  So the Cubs have two options now.  One, they can take a hit in value and trade Garza this winter for whatever they can get.  Two, they can wait and see how Garza performs in 2013 and hope he can regain some of the value his injury cost him.

No matter the outcome, it's clear that Garza's elbow injury has certainly hurt his trade value and may have hurt the Cubs rebuilding process.

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