The Chicago Cubs had a successful off-season. That notion was re-affirmed on Sunday. Chicago Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum announced on Sunday that starting pitcher Matt Garza will start the season on the disabled list and likely will miss the first month of the regular season. Garza, who ended the 2012 season on the disabled list, felt tightness in his side during a throwing session on Saturday and will refrain from baseball activity for the next five to seven days.
The Cubs, however, are more adept to handle an injury to their starting rotation this season than the team was during the 2012 season. With Carlos Villanueva, Scott Feldman, Edwin Jackson, and Scott Baker signed to free agent contracts this past off-season; the Cubs have increased both the depth and quality of their starting rotation. Baker, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, will miss at least the first two weeks of the season. With Baker’s status in mind and with Garza being placed on the disabled list to begin the season, Sveum declared that Villanueva and Travis Wood will start the season in the starting rotation. That would mean that the Cubs starting rotation to begin the season will be Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva, and Travis Wood.
For Garza and the Cubs, this figures to impact their long-term plans. There was no question that Garza was going to be the Cubs’ top trading piece this season. Garza likely would have been traded to the Texas Rangers last July had he not been placed on a disabled list ten days before the July 31 trade deadline with an injury that ended his season. Teams called the Cubs about Garza’s availability this off-season, though the expectation was that the pitcher would first have to prove that he cans stay healthy and pitch with sustained success. Starting the season on the team’s disabled list will not help the Cubs’ efforts to trade Garza if the opportunity arises.
Garza, who is eligible for free agency at the conclusion of the 2013 season, will have to prove to teams beginning in May that he is not fragile and capable of staying healthy. Though, given his track record over the past two seasons, that may not be a likely outcome for Garza. One benefit for the Cubs is that this may entice Garza to take the Cubs’ qualifying offer if the team offers one after the season. Remember, if the Cubs’ make a qualifying offer to Garza after the season; then any team interested in signing the starting pitcher would have to be willing to sacrifice their first round draft pick. That caveat collapsed the markets for players like Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse and would likely do the same to Garza. By accepting the Cubs’ qualifying offer should they offer one, Garza would ensure himself one more season to prove to teams that he is durable and can be depended on. Not to mention, it would allow the Cubs another opportunity to collect long-term assets by trading a short-term asset in Garza.