Oct. 19, 2008.
The Rays punched their ticket to their first World Series in franchise history, and Matt Garza left a lasting impression on Red Sox fans.
Garza, who earned a victory in Game 3 of the ALCS six days prior, shut the Red Sox down for seven innings in Game 7. He allowed just one run on two hits while striking out nine. It was the type of performance that you applaud regardless of whether or not you have a dog in the fight, and it was the type of performance that stays with you forever if you were victimized by it.
Garza went on to spend two more successful seasons pitching for the Rays before being traded to the Cubs in January 2011. He has pitched well since landing in Chicago, and he’s a pitcher who has been linked to the Red Sox on multiple occasions, including this past week. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Red Sox are among the teams “actively talking” to the Cubs about Garza, who figures to be available as Chicago continues its rebuilding effort.
The whole Garza-to-Boston scenario has been debated before, most notably when the Red Sox were seeking compensation for Theo Epstein. Each time, the same points typically get hammered home.
Garza would be a nice addition to the Red Sox’ rotation for a number of reasons. He enjoyed three successful seasons in the American League East, he has playoff experience and his numbers have typically been consistent on a season-to-season basis. Plus, he has an intense mentality that makes him seem like a natural fit for a big market like Boston — some may use the phrase, “gamer” — and he has been on a roll of late. But the biggest consideration that the Red Sox need to make when it comes to going after Garza is whether or not he’s really a necessity at this point.
There are undoubtedly questions surrounding the Red Sox’ rotation, and it starts at the top. Clay Buchholz is still trying to battle his way back from an injury and Jon Lester has struggled with inconsistency. But while Garza would absolutely help stabilize any pitching staff, would his overall impact in Boston be enough to warrant shipping out a hefty package of prospects?
Garza’s trade value is soaring at the right time for the Cubs. The right-hander tossed eight innings of one-run ball on Wednesday, and he’s now 4-1 with a 3.45 ERA in nine starts this season. Prying him away won’t be easy, and adding Garza to Boston’s current mix might be a little redundant.
Beyond Buchholz and Lester, John Lackey has been excellent, Ryan Dempster has been steady and Felix Doubront has come on strong of late. It’s no guarantee that any or all of those three trends will continue, but Garza would slot in among those guys as a mid-rotation-type of starter despite the Cubs’ best efforts to sell him as an “ace.”
The philosophy of, “you can never have enough pitching,” constantly proves true, but we must keep in mind that adding Garza would require the Red Sox to axe someone from the rotation — a rotation that’s performing well right now. With viable young hurlers like Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa sitting at No. 6 and No. 7 on the organization’s depth chart, the Red Sox’ rotation actually appears to be in good shape. That means that much of Ben Cherington’s attention should be focused on improving the bullpen unless a deal that’s tough to pass up comes along.
Garza’s career numbers are respectable, and the fact that he did succeed in the AL East adds to his resume, especially for a contending club like the Red Sox. There’s still risk involved, though, including the right-hander’s home run rate, his recent battle with a “dead arm,” his impending free agency, and, most importantly, his cost of acquisition.
If the Red Sox go hard after Garza — a big “if” — and end up obtaining the 29-year-old, they will be a better team this season because of it. But they won’t improve enough to justify paying a big price, even if the whole idea of adding Garza sounds sexy on the surface.