No one knows if the Padres and Cubs will actually make a deal to send Matt Garza to San Diego, but it will surely take multiple prospects including Anthony Rizzo at minimum. I’ve read many pieces decrying this logic as crazy. The Padres just traded Mat Latos for prospects, why would they turn around and trade prospects for Garza? It’s a decent question, but one with possible, even probable answers. The answers, though, all depend on how much you believe in the players within the Padres farm system and their ability to translate to Major League success.
Let’s start with the facts being thrown out by the naysayers. First, Garza will make an estimated $8.7 million through arbitration for the 2012 season. That could be bumped to upwards of $10 million for his final arbitration year in 2013. The Padres are a rebuilding team, clearly focusing on young prospects who come cheap.
Second, it makes little sense to trade away the club’s best player in Latos for prospects if the team is in turn just going to ship other prospects out for an older, more expensive pitcher.
Third, Anthony Rizzo is more valuable than Garza would be if the Padres planned to flip Garza at the trade deadline next season.
These are all valid arguments if you don’t believe in players like Cory Burns, Yonder Alonso, Jedd Gyorko, Brad Boxberger, and Yasmani Grandal. I’m guessing Josh Byrnes and the entire Padres organization believe in every one of these players. Now, I’m by no means an expert. However, there are very plausible responses to each of the concerns above.
In the span of a couple days, the Padres made moves that brought in two prospective future closers in Burns and Boxberger. Huston Street‘s buyout for next season is already paid for, so after 2012 the team will be dropping $7.5 million from their books. In the meantime, Street gives both Burns and Boxberger a chance to develop further and even get their feet wet with a few Major League innings next season. By the time Street moves on, either Burns or Boxberger may be ready to step in and take the reins as the club’s new closer, and they would do so for a salary of under a million per year. Assuming either Boxberger or Burns becomes the closer in 2013 and is making somewhere around $500,000, the Padres would be saving $7 million with Steeet gone.
Chase Headley is already attracting a lot of attention. He is still relatively cheap but will surely be making quite a bit more in the coming years. In 2012, Headley is due $3 million. If Gyorko continues to develop or the Padres pursue a cheaper third baseman through trade, they have the ability to move Headley, save about $2 million per season with his replacement, and even pick up some more solid prospect in the return deal for his trade.
Finally, Nick Hundley is penciled in as the Padres main guy behind the plate going forward. However, they just picked up David Baker, a solid addition, and they hope Grandal can continue his quick development. Now Hundley is not in the same class as Street or even Headley as far as salary, but he is raising some eyebrows across the league. If he has another solid year for the Padres, he could become another valuable trade chip during next year’s off-season. If Grandal can fill a void left by Hundley and the team can pull in a solid return for Hundley, the move may make sense.
All combined, the above moves could save the Padres at least $9 million a year in salary. So, we come back to Matt Garza. Rather than view him as a short-term player on the roster, Byrnes could trade for him and immediately work on a long-term contract. If the team can work a deal that averages out to $10 million a year for Garza over the course of multiple years, they are really only adding a million to their payroll if the other moves I mentioned happen. They would have a solid number one pitcher, Edinson Volquez as their number two if he can overcome his control issues, and still maintain a fully stocked farm system.
Everyone seems to view a move for Garza as a short-term deal, but there is no reason the above moves couldn’t work out. Obviously things change, players get hurt, players under-perform etc. But at least Byrnes seems to have a plan and a path to competing in mind going forward. Matt Garza could quickly help the club compete next season and for years to come if things fall into place just right.