Happy new year, BCBers! I had some time at a boring NYE party the other night to think about the Cubs and the current strategy of TheoJed. I have a theory as to what’s going on – and to why there’s been (relatively) little action in Cubland this offseason.
IMO, the Cubs' ultimate decision on Matt Garza is linked to the Cubs' ultimate decision on Prince Fielder, and, really, vice versa. If Garza remains a Cub, Fielder very likely could be one, too. Here’s my thinking:
It’s been widely reported that TheoJed are in talks with several teams about Garza. The decision to deal the right hander hinges, almost certainly and rather obviously, on whether what is offered is viewed as more valuable than keeping Garza in the long term. As is common in trades likes this, whatever the Cubs get back almost certainly won’t be as valuable in 2012 or 2013 as Garza. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that the Cubs would get big-league players back – or, at least, big-league players who would be as good or as established as Garza.
Maybe a Garza trade ends up being a dynasty-creating decision. But think of the Cubs’ rotation without Garza in the next two years. Assuming someone else isn’t added via trade of free agency – or something unexpected doesn’t happen like Cashner becoming a TOR starter -- the Cubs’ best starter in 2012 and 2013 could easily be (gulp) Travis Wood.
In such a situation, does it make sense to spend $50 million on Fielder over the next two years? Or, maybe better stated, is signing Fielder the slam dunk that many of us (myself included) have said it should be – because he’s a guy who could help now and later – given how bad the team could be in 2013-14 without Garza?
Turned around, the Cubs are probably trying to determine whether Fielder could be had at an agreeable price before they decide on Garza. If Bryan LaHair is projected to be at first on April 5, it makes more sense to trade Garza now, get prospects and regroup for 2013 and beyond. This would seem to jibe with Bruce Levine’s talk on Saturday (and various other reports) that the Cubs are still in the Fielder mix. Also, the Cubs can probably partly control the timetable of the Fielder talks, because they’re the biggest fish in the bidding (compared with Washington, Baltimore, Seattle, Toronto, etc.). This would seem to be especially true after Texas won the Darvish bidding.
For a while, I dismissed my own theories on all of this as hopefulness. I'd like the Cubs to rebuild around Garza, Fielder and Castro, because I thought such a rebuild would be more fun than the alternative -- which seems like it could be Starlin Castro and the Bad Contract Expiration Watch for at least a year, maybe two. Then I thought about one of the Cubs' only major moves this offseason: David DeJesus.
Signing DeJesus wasn’t a huge gamble, but it made no sense for a team going young and waiting for contracts to expire. The Cubs could have trotted Tyler Colvin out for another year, promoted Brett Jackson (and kept Marlon Byrd), given the job to Reed Johnson or even Jeff Baker or found somebody off the scrap heap in February to play right. Instead, they gave two years to DeJesus, a veteran who's a good bounce-back candidate – and they signed him early in the offseason. Hmmm.
Now, it’s possible that the Cubs’ strategy changed since the DeJesus signing – that the move was initially designed to help the Cubs be competitive in 2012 (which would favor getting Fielder and keeping Garza) but that facts on the ground (Rizzo's availability? Fielder's pricetag relative to Pujols'?) rendered the DeJesus signing meaningless as a predictor. Indeed, the major moves after the DeJesus signing (Marshall, Stewart) appear more geared toward a youth movement, but the addition of Wood and Stewart could be helpful to the 2012 team.
So, maybe, in this case, a DeJesus is just a DeJesus. But I doubt it.
Back to Fielder and Garza. It is still possible that Garza returns and Fielder goes elsewhere – the return for Garza might not be good enough. But I’d say Garza is more likely to return if Fielder is signed and that it’s almost unthinkable that Fielder will be a Cub and Garza isn’t one.
Anyway, have at it.