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Thursday, 04 July 2013 02:10

Boston Red Sox trade target: Matt Garza

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With July beginning, we have officially entered the most exciting month on the baseball calendar(omitting October, of course)-- trade deadline season. Although there are still 28 days left for teams to scout potential trade targets, the days leading up to the deadline are always full of speculation and rumors which fuel the conversations of baseball enthusiasts. This year, the Red Sox find themselves in a very good spot; leading the AL East by 3.5 games and having a better run differential than any other team in the majors. However, they’re not a finished product yet. Entering Wednesday, Red Sox starters have a combined ERA of 3.76 over 512 innings pitched, allowing the most walks and striking out the second most batters in the majors. As the stats suggest the starting pitching isn’t a pressing need but it is an area that the Red Sox could think about improving. The health of Clay Buchholz and their faith in Jon Lester to rebound, for instance, are two factors that will get significant consideration as the trade deadline nears. While there are plenty of names to chose from on the starter market, Chicago Cubs right hander, Matt Garza is a pitcher that Red Sox General Manager, Ben Cherington is reportedly interested in. Last Sunday, in fact, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Red Sox had sent a top scout to watch Garza pitch during the Cubs west coast trip. Garza is a pitcher that the Red Sox have coveted for a long time. While with the Tampa Bay Rays, Garza most notably left a impression on the Red Sox in the 2008 American League Championship Series. In the 2008 ALCS Garza held a 1.38 ERA over 13.0 innings, winning the two games he started, the ladder of which was a pivotal game 7. Moreover, as a starter in the American League East for 3 seasons, Garza held a 34-31 record, throwing close to 600 innings while keeping a modest 3.86 ERA. After the 2010 season, Garza was traded by the Rays to the Chicago Cubs. In Garza’s first year with the Cubs he looked to have come as advertised, keeping his games started, ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched fairly on par with his previous seasons. However, the past two season’s have not been as kind to Garza. In 2012 the 28 year old righty was placed on the 60 day disabled list in July due to a stress fracture in his elbow, which caused him to miss the rest of the 2012 season. Similar to last season, Garza found himself on the disabled list again; this time with a strained latissimus dorsi muscle which caused him to miss the beginning of the 2013 season. Since his return from the injury though, Garza has pitched well enough to garner lots of trade interest once again. With starting pitching being a point of interest, I suppose it is wise of Red Sox General Manager, Ben Cherington to make Garza a realistic trade target for the 2013 Red Sox. After all, Garza is one of the top arms available. So far this season he has returned to normalcy, although having just 8 starts so far isn’t the biggest sample size to make a determination from. Nevertheless, in the 49 innings that Garza has thrown, he’s conceded 42 hits and 21 runs which makes for a 3.83 ERA. Certainly he’s not dominating the competition but he’s giving solid efforts when taking the mound, which is what the Red Sox need consistently. Furthermore, Garza’s recent injury history hasn’t seemed to effect his velocity at all. According to Fangraphs, Garza has remained fairly consistent with his fastball velocity, averaging 92.5 with his two seamer and 92.8 with his four seamer. While his average velocity on both pitcher is usually around 93 MPH, a marginal difference of .5 MPH or less suggests that there isn’t a cause for concern.   Being one of the most highly touted arms on the market certainly comes with a high price tag, even though Garza is set to hit free agency in 2014. Therefore, Theo Epstein and the Chicago brass are well within their rights to ask for a big haul in return for Garza, even if he isn’t necessarily worth it. As the Chicago Tribune reported, right now, the Cubs would be looking for 2 or 3 top prospects in return for Garza. While that price may drop just a bit as the deadline approaches, it just goes to show how much the Red Sox would have to invest in this years product if they want Garza. From the Red Sox stand point, Ben Cherington has a few decisions to make; will Buhholz return healthy and will Lester bounce back? In trading with the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer led Cubs front office, Cherington loses significant negotiating wiggle room. If you remember, Epstein and Hoyer were instrumental in drafting quite a few of the Red Sox top prospects when they held positions in Boston. In summation, the Red Sox will have to decide if Garza is even worth it. The Sox can walk away from any Garza negotiations and still have Buchholz, Lester, and Lackey leading their rotation which is certainly something Cherington will keep in the back of his mind. Whatever happens between now and the deadline will paint a clearer picture on the Red Sox approach until then the Sox seem to be monitoring the starters market and keeping all options open.