Despite Theo Epstein's comments that Matt Garza is "exactly (the) type of pitcher we want to build around", it appears that, with the Cubs planning to go through a complete rebuilding, the Cubs are willing to listen to offers for their "ace".
David Kaplan recently reported that the trade talks are heating up, with Toronto, Boston and the Yankees interested. Jon Paul Morosi also reported today that the Tigers have emerged as potential suitors for Garza.
With Garza one on the best starting pitchers remaining on the block and the Cubs apparently targeting young starting pitching in return, what can we expect the Cubs to get in exchange for Garza?
First, its hard to see the Red Sox making a serious push for Garza, as they have already traded away some of their minor league depth in acquiring Mark Melancon from the Astros and Andrew Bailey from the A's. So, it probably comes down to the Blue Jays, Tigers and Yankees as the most likely suitors.
Second, we cannot expect to get the kind of returns that pitchers Mat Latos or Gio Gonzalez netted, as Garza is only under team control for 2 more years, whereas the aforementioned pitchers are all under control for at least 4 years.
The Trevor Cahill trade may be a good benchmark as Cahill is a lesser pitcher than Garza, but under team control longer. Cahill and lefty reliever Craig Breslow netted the A's Jarrod Parker, the Diamondbacks 4th best prospect (per Baseball America), plus a good outfield prospect in Collin Cowgill as well as relief prospect Ryan Cook.
The Cubs should be able to acquire at least a couple good prospects for Garza, with one being a top pitching prospect who is close to the majors. Looking at the prospects for the Yankees, Tigers and Jays, here are the players I would target:
New York probably has two of the best pitching prospects of any team involved in the Garza discussions in Dellin Betances (3.70 ERA and 142 K's in 126.1 IP between AA/AAA) and Manny Banuelos (3.75 ERA and 125 K's in 129.2 IP at AA/AAA). Any trade with the Yankees would have to include one of these two pitchers. However, Betances may be easier to pry away from them as Banuelos is a lefty and thus inherently more valuable.
After that, I would target one or two lower level prospects, such as second baseman Corban Joseph (.277/.353/.415 in AA) or outfielder Mason Williams (.349/.395/.468 in 269 AB's in low A).
First and foremost on the list of players I would target from the Tigers is Jacob Turner (3.44 ERA with 110 K's in 131 IP between AA/AAA). He ranked as the Tigers number one prospect (by Baseball America) prior to the 2011 season and should be number one on the Cubs list.
If the Tigers claim that Turner is "untouchable", then another possibility might be lefty Andy Oliver (4.71 ERA with 143 K's in 147 IP at AAA). He has battled wildness the last two years (over 4.2 BB/9 each year), but still projects as a front-line starter.
In addition to one of those two pitchers, perhaps the Cubs could acquire one of the Tigers top outfield prospects in either Daniel Fields (.220/.308/.326 in high A) or Avisail Garcia (.264/.297/.389 in high A). Both have good tools that haven't translated to the field yet and are probably expendable in Detroit's eyes.
Toppping my list from the Jays would be Kyle Drabek. He struggled in both the majors (6.06 ERA in 78.2 IP) and at AAA (7.44 ERA in 75 IP) in 2011, but ranked as the Jays top prospect heading into the season. The son of former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, Kyle has top of the rotation stuff and was part of the Phillies trade for Roy Halladay back in 2009.
Other than Drabek, most of the Jays top pitching prospects are still in the low minors or do not project to be front-line starters. Thus, I would probably target a better secondary prospect (in addition to Drabek). One such prospect is outfielder Jake Marisnick (.320/.392/.496 in low A). Another possibility might be catcher Travis d'Arnaud (.311/.371/.542), who is currently blocked by J.P. Arencibia in Toronto, but that might be a bit of a stretch.
After trading Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer for Garza, Fernando Perez (no longer with the Cubs) and Zach Rosscup last year, its hard to see the Cubs coming out ahead in this game. But if the Cubs really are intent on trading Garza, then acquiring one of these top pitching prospects could at least lessen the sting a little.