It’s beginning to look more and more likely that Matt Garza will begin next season as a member of the Cubs.
Garza is still in shut-down mode due to a stress reaction in his right elbow. While he’s still hopeful of returning this year, David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com notes that Cubs manager Dale Sveum expressed some skepticism during an appearance on WGN Radio in Chicago this afternoon.
“To be honest with you, I’d be surprised if he pitches again this season. We all want him back but when the rehab is done and right now we have 48 or 49 games left and he works his butt off but’s going to be tough. Is it possible sometime this year? Sure, but I would be surprised if he pitches again this season,” Sveum said.
Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports that Sveum backtracked a bit upon arriving to Wrigley Field this afternoon, but he still conceded that a lot of things will have to go right for Garza to return this season.
“We don’t know that,” Sveum said. “It’s going to be very — I don’t want to say really unlikely he’ll be back — but it’ll probably take a lot of hard work and for some things to happen in the healing process to get back because you’re going to run out of time, basically to rehab. … It’ll be kind of tough, but some guys heal quicker than others.”
The Cubs reportedly shopped Garza leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but assuming he doesn’t pitch again this season, teams will likely want him to prove his health next year before talking about a possible deal. The 28-year-old right-hander is making $9.5 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.