When the Chicago Cubs acquired Matt Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the 2011 season, the general feeling was that the team had finally landing the ace-caliber pitcher they’d long been seeking to lead their starting rotation. Garza had a solid, though not spectacular, season that year going 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA over 198.0 IP, adding a career best 9.0 K/9. Injuries would limit him to just 103.2 IP in 18 starts last year and a strained lat muscle that he suffered during Spring Training has kept him off the field for all of 2013 thus far.
Garza appears set to return to the Cubs’ active roster, however, as Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald is reporting that he’ll start for the team on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Having been out of action since mid-July, the Cubs have progressed cautiously with Garza’s rehab thus far. He’s made four starts in the team’s minor league system (two at Double-A and two at Triple-A) with some solid results (1.17 ERA, 0.913 WHIP) and all indications seem to suggest that he’s back to full strength if the Cubs are bringing him back onto the active roster. There’s a fair amount of pressure on Garza to remain healthy for the remainder of the season as his contract only runs through the end of the year. How he performs on the mound will have a significant and immediate impact on what the clubs chooses to do with him going forward – be it making him a July trade candidate, signing him to a contract extension, or letting him leave via free agency this winter.
Carlos Villanueva will be pushed to the bullpen, adds Miles, in order to open room for Garza. Villanueva got off to a strong start to the 2013 season, posting a 1.53 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .167/.223/.302 line through his first four starts on the year (29.1 IP). Since he’s been a different pitcher, seeing his ERA balloon to 6.94 while allowing hitters a .333/.386/.533 line in the four since (23.1 IP).
Prior to the 2011 season the Cubs sent five players – Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Sam Fuld, Robinson Chirinos, and Brandon Guyer – to the Rays for Garza (along with Zach Rosscup and Fernando Perez). None of the players involved in the team have gone on to have a significant impact for their respective teams since the deal was completed, though Archer and Lee have been considered among the Rays’ top prospects for a good amount of time. Unless Garza is able to quickly produce for the Cubs upon his return and bring them something significant back in a July trade then it would look as though the Rays ended up with the better end of this deal.