Both Matt Garza and Chase Headley could start the 2013 season on the disabled list. In most seasons, this would simply be an unfortunate setback for their respective teams. In 2013, though, the injuries could affect more than individual stats and team performance. The injuries could affect trade value.
The Chicago Cubs have been active in their attempts to deal Matt Garza before he hits free agency after this season. There's no doubt the team will move him if possible. In San Diego, the situation with Chase Headley is far less clear. They have expressed interest in keeping Headley. However, as the team doled out contract extensions to players like Cory Luebke, Cameron Maybin, and Nick Hundley, Headley remained locked into his arbitration years. Now, both players area dealing with two completely different injuries. But the injuries could shape each players' future differently.
Garza has been a decent pitcher in his career. In fact, he has performed best as a member of the Cubs. Unfortunately for the Cubs, he makes too much money. The Cubs are trimming the fat. They are starting over. While that may not be what the Bleacher Bums want to hear, it's what the club needs to do in order to get back on the right track. Theo Epstein has earned enough equity in his career to be trusted. His biggest trade has yet to happen, though.
Despite numerous attempts to deal Garza, he's still a member of the Cubs. And the Cubs can thank injuries for that. Last year, when it seemed certain that Garza would be traded at the deadline or in the offseason, Garza suffered a stress reaction in pitching elbow. The injury caused him to be shut down for the second half of the season.
Trade value kaput.
This season, as Garza appeared to be healthy, hopes were high that the Cubs could find him a new home. There were even rumors that he would be dealt before Opening Day if he could show some solid performances in the spring. So much for that. Garza has yet to make a spring start and his ability to pitch once the season starts is a concern. In fact, Garza has yet to pitch from a mound since suffering a setback early in the spring.
So what does that do to his trade value? Garza has a limited amount of time to impress teams enough to trade away a young, cost-controlled player in order to get Garza for a half-season. The July 31st trade deadline is already looming in Chicago. It's months away in reality, but with Garza unable to audition for other teams across the league this spring and his chances of pitching in the first week of the season dwindling, July 31st is coming too fast. If Garza does not get enough work in to prove he's healthy and productive, the Cubs may be left holding the bag.
Chicago may be forced to give Garza up for far less than they ever would have imagined. His poorly-timed injuries have tied the Cubs' hands. If they keep him through the end of the season, there's no chance Chicago will make Garza a qualifying offer. That means when he inevitably signs elsewhere, there will be no draft pick compensation coming back to Chicago. That's worse case scenario.
So, the Cubs are hoping to get Garza back to 100 percent. It would be surprising to see them let him back out on the field until they are convinced he's as healthy as possible. There's no sense in rushing things now. Not much is going to change if Garza pitches in the first week of the season verse the third or fourth week. Chicago's best option is to allow Garza as much time as he needs, and hope his abbreviated first half is enough to entice some teams into making decent offers come the trade deadline.
And then there's Headley. His breakout performance last season was simply a display of power not previously seen. Headley's always been a good player, a good hitter. Not everyone acknowledges that. Not even the Padres, it would seem.
San Diego has had every opportunity to lock Headley up to a long-term deal. Of course, Headley has been asking for more than the Padres want to pay, but it's almost certain his asking price is far lower than what the market would give him in free agency. What the Padres need to do, and what they are clearly struggling with, is decide if they are committed to keeping their star third baseman or trading him.
Now, the team must also face the reality that Headley's thumb injury, a small fracture, could slightly change the course of the trade/extension talks. Headley's situation is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Garza's. He still has the 2013 and 2014 season under the Padres' control. He can become a free agent after the 2014 season, and San Diego may take that entire time to decide whether to let him go or extend him. However, Headley's thumb injury could affect his immediate trade value.
Any finger injury can easily affect a player's ability to swing the bat. Such could be the case with Headley when he's ready to come back from his fracture. If Headley has a slow start, the Padres likely won't have much opportunity to trade him by July. Fortunately for the team, they do not have to trade him this season. They have the offseason and until July of 2014. However, if Headley slumps because of the thumb injury, it may put some leverage back into the Padres' hands for extension talks.
San Diego is in a much better position than the Cubs when it comes to trade possibilities. Teams will still want Headley even if he starts slow because of the injury. The Cubs, though, will have a hard time dealing Garza. That's how quickly injuries can affect trade value and contract discussions. One second the club is in the driver's seat. The next, it's lose-lose all around.
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