With Cubs pitchers and catchers scheduled for their first workouts at Fitch Park this afternoon, news comes via Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer might be looking to sign Matt Garza to a long-term deal:
"We focused really hard on getting the one-year number done a few weeks ago," general manager Jed Hoyer said of the $9.5 million deal struck the day of Garza’s scheduled arbitration hearing. "We didn’t have any kind of long-term discussions before that, but certainly there was some dialogue about possibly having some long-term discussions at some point maybe this spring. . . . I think we probably will sit down and talk."
Garza, 28, wasn’t available to media. He told two reporters Friday that he didn’t want to talk about contract issues but was open to considering a long-term deal.
"We’ve said many times he’s the kind of guy we need," Hoyer said. "We need more Matt Garzas, not less. We need a rotation full of those guys, so if we can work something out, that’d be wonderful."
Why I think this is the right thing to do, after the jump.
Garza turned 28 in November. He's clearly not "ace" material, though it's also clear that right now, he's the best pitcher the Cubs have. His 2011 season was pretty much in line with his career norms, although he had career-bests in ERA, K/9 and K/BB ratios, and allowed just 14 home runs, sixth-fewest among all pitchers last year who threw as many innings as he did (198).
His contract, agreed to without an arb hearing, of $9.5 million for 2012 is a relative bargain, especially considering he asked for $12.5 million. Another performance like his 2011 would put him in that range, or perhaps a little higher, on a multiyear deal.
Other pitchers born in 1983, when Garza was, include Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson and Gavin Floyd. Some of those, clearly, are heading for big paydays (Verlander and Hamels in particular). Edwin Jackson just got a one-year deal with the Nationals for slightly more than Garza will be making this season.
At 28, Garza should have at least four or five more productive seasons in him. With quite a bit of money coming off the Cubs' books at the end of this year (Ryan Dempster and the money owed to Carlos Zambrano in particular), the Cubs should be able to afford to pay Garza and also go after a bigger-name free agent starter (or maybe acquire one by trade).
A four-year offer for $56 million would be in the right ballpark, I'd think. You'd probably have a fifth-year option and a buyout involved, and maybe some of the money could be put in as incentive options (starts, innings, etc.)
Get it done, Theo & Jed.