MORRISSEY: Matt Garza had to go
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org July 22, 2013 10:02PM
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Updated: August 24, 2013 6:34AM
Admit it. You thought the Cubs would send Matt Garza to the mound Monday night in Arizona. You thought they would pitch their most valuable, tradable asset while waiting for multiple teams to give them the offer they wanted.
I did, too. Given the historical “misfortunes’’ of the franchise and given that Garza had gotten injured in the exact same situation last season, I thought we’d be having a discussion today about the best place to apply a tourniquet when an arm falls off during a baseball game.
I don’t know if Theo Epstein is the smartest man in the room, as his employees say he is, but I know for sure now that he’s smart enough to stick to his plan and not tempt fate.
Alas, we don’t know if the four players the Cubs received from Texas in return for Garza will turn into real players. You don’t. I don’t. Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, doesn’t. It’s baseball, neither an art nor a science but a crapshoot. The player some are calling the centerpiece of Monday’s trade for the Cubs is C.J. Edwards, who was 8-2 in Class A ball for the Rangers this season. The centerpiece was a 48th-round draft pick.
The Cubs also received third baseman Mike Olt, who was hitting .213 for Texas’ Class AAA affiliate after hitting 28 homers at Class AA last season. He played for the Rangers in 2012, hitting .152 in 16 games. Pitcher Justin Grimm, 7-7 with a 6.37 ERA for the Rangers this season, is part of the deal, and there will be a player to be named. If you’re a Cubs fan, you should hope he’s named “Lou Gehrig’s surprise great-grandson.’’
Despite the vague, unsettled feeling of getting at least two minor-leaguers and a .500 pitcher for a more proven player, it was the right thing to do for the Cubs.
Garza wanted to sign a contract and stay in Chicago, but that was never going to happen. He was a means to an end, albeit a still-foggy end. And that’s OK. With the Cubs working on their 105th year of futility, fans should be willing to put up with some poor visibility for another year or two.
I have nothing against Garza. He has been a good soldier. But sometimes soldiers are sacrificed for the greater good. Under Epstein’s master plan, the Cubs are taking the Costco approach and buying in bulk. The more young, quality players they have in their system, the better chance they’ll have of one or two or five turning into good major-league players. That’s what this is about.
Two weeks ago, Garza tweeted that he was unhappy with a column I had written about him. For the life of me, I haven’t been able to figure out what ticked him off. That I said the Cubs should trade him? A million other people had the same original thought. That I said he had had one good month? His 63-62 career record would suggest he’s merely on a hot streak. That I said he has been injured a lot and has a screw in his throwing elbow from a childhood accident? Maybe he wanted us to get out the X-rays and have a look around.
Oh, well. Another would-be friend lost. But I’ll take solace in knowing Garza gets to play for a contender.
It’s true that the Cubs have been playing better the last six weeks, but it’s also beside the point. A team that lost 101 games last season and is on pace for 90 losses this season should use its best players as trade bait. The point is the future, not the present.
The difficulty some Cubs fans are having with the concept is understandable, but the losing got old about halfway through last season.
I have no idea if the players whom Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have drafted, signed and traded for over the last year will end up being productive major-leaguers. But I do know that this is the way most good franchises are built.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Sunday he was “100 percent” sure Garza would start Monday night. He was only saying what skippers are supposed to say in these circumstances. But I was fully prepared to see Garza grab at an injured body part against the Diamondbacks, likely his arm and probably the place where the Tommy John surgery would go.
Then Epstein shook me out of my dark thoughts.