Garza Set to Return to Cubs Rotation, Villanueva Moved to the Bullpen

The Cubs made it official on Saturday and as expected Matt Garza will make his 2013 debut on Tuesday when the Cubs open at a three-game series in Pittsburgh against the red-hot Pirates. The Cubs announced on Saturday morning that Garza would return to the Cubs’ rotation and Carlos Villanueva would move from the rotation to the bullpen.

Dale Sveum told reporters that Villanueva took the news very professionally. Sveum plans on using Villanueva in multiple roles, just not as a long reliever, because he has a repertoire to be effective in short stints or long outings out of the pen.

Tuesday will be Garza’s first appearance on a big league mound since last July 21 in St. Louis. Garza will be limited to 85-90 pitches.

The corresponding roster move will not be made until Tuesday. Carlos Villanueva will be available out of the bullpen and the Cubs will have an extra arm in the pen for the finale against the Mets on Sunday.

Matt Garza threw his scheduled bullpen at Wrigley on Saturday, and he is obviously ready to return to a big league mound. Garza called his rehab from a strained left lat injury that sidelined him in February a grind, both mentally and physically.

Garza’s season came to an abrupt ending last July in St. Louis. Garza suffered a stress reaction in his right elbow just as the Cubs were close to dealing him for a package of prospects prior to the deadline. Garza was 5-7 in 18 starts with a 3.91 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP before being shut down for the remainder of the year.

According to several reports, the Cubs considered going with a six-man rotation for a short time. The Cubs obviously decided against it and will send Carlos Villanueva to the pen. Villanueva was signed to a two-year, $10 million contract to be the Cubs’ swingman in the off-season. Villanueva pitched surprisingly well in April. Villanueva posted a 1-1 record in his first five starts of the year with a 2.29 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP while holding teams to a .171 batting average. Villanueva has not been as sharp of late. In his last three starts, 0-2 with a 7.27 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP … and teams have hit close to .400 against him (.377).

Carlos Villanueva was not happy about the Cubs’ decision but took the news very professionally, as would be expected from the veteran. The numbers show Villanueva has been more effective during his career as a reliever. In 245 games out of a bullpen, Villanueva owns 3.76 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP while averaging nine strikeouts per nine innings and 2.57 strikeouts for every walk.

The Cubs need for Matt Garza to come back to the rotation and to be nothing more than Matt Garza. A healthy, effective Garza would give the front office options moving forward.

In his two seasons in a Cubs uniform, Garza is 15-17 with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. In 49 games (301 2/3 innings) Garza has struck out 293 batters while walking 95 and surrendering 276 hits. Garza has front of the rotation stuff and has shown he knows how to win ballgames. Many think the Cubs will trade Garza once he proves he is healthy, and that could end up being the route the front office takes in order to maximize his value. Reports in recent days have suggested the Cubs could keep Garza and try to sign him to a contract extension. Or keep him and let him finish out the season then make him a qualifying offer in the off-season which would give them another pick in next year’s draft if he decides to test the market and signs with another team.

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  • Theboardrider

    That’s a great addition to an already performing staff. Neil, would you care to expand on “options?” Just your oinon

    • Theboardrider

      Wonder when Baker will come back? Gotta think as of now he would go to the pen.

    • Neil

      Sorry man, stepped away for a bit tonight. I am not sure if I understand your question. Would you mind expanding it?

      • Theboardrider

        “A healthy, effective Garza would give the front office options moving forward.”

        Can you expand on that comment please sir?

        • Neil


          If Garza can prove he is healthy and can get hitters out again, it gives the Cubs three options.

          1) They could trade him for a package of prospects. Likely smaller than what they would have received a year ago but still a good return for a pitcher they have no control over at the end of the season. Injuries to the Rangers’ staff could lead to the two teams talking again.

          2) The second option would be to extend him, something they have talked to Garza about in the past. From the way I understand, Garza wanted a no-trade clause when they’ve talked about extensions in the past. The front office will not give those out anymore. From the way I understand it, that broke off talks. He might be more receptive now after what he’s been through for the past ten months.

          3) The other option is that they could keep him, risk making him a qualifying offer which would mean around a $13-14 million payday for Garza next year if he was to accept. The front office would have to weigh a possible package against the potential of having an additional draft pick. If Garza shows he is healthy, he figures to be in high demand in the off-season and could net them an extra pick.

          • Theboardrider

            Thank you very much Neil. I kinda figured as much but I value your opinion.

            Have you ever thought about doing an editorial? I think the readers would appreciate it. There’s no one around here we hold in higher regard.

            I may send you this in an email as well in case you miss this…

  • John_CC

    I am recently moving towards hoping that the Cubs extend Garza (if he proves completely healthy) and draft Bryant. Hold onto Wood (which I fully believe they will) and get what they can in trade for DeJesus, Soriano (though I admit I wouldn’t mind seeing him stay at this point), Hairston, Marmol and Feldman. But the biggest chip they probably have right now is James Russell. He’s a lights out lefty set-up man. If they could turn him into another Wood + prospect …

    • GaryLeeT

      Just looking at the current landscape for the Cubs, I would say a full time RBI guy at 3rd base, should be their top priority. All the articles I have read about Headley, suggest there is little chance of the Padres letting him go. So I agree with 100% of what you posted. Drafting Bryant would make the most sense right now, and from what I have seen from Fujikawa since he’s come back, I think it’s safe to move Russell.

      • Tony_Hall

        I don’t understand the idea of drafting to fill a present need of the team. At #2 you draft the best player period. You should be getting an elite player who will make your team and force you to drop someone else or trade someone else at some point in the future. There is already talk of Bryant not being able to stay at 3B, so you only take him, if you think he is better than Appel and Gray.

        • DWalker

          Some of the mocks actually list him as a 1B already.

          • Ray Ray

            Many think he could play one of the corner of spots as well. He is an OK athlete but he does have an elite bat.

        • John_CC

          He is, by all accounts, far and away the position player in the draft. And just the best of a weak class, but highly touted. The kid has 30 hr right now! Plus he is an advanced hitter, good eye and high OBP. Like you said position shouldn’t matter, but the fact he plays 3B helps. He is also athletic and could play RF, so the scouting report goes.

        • GaryLeeT

          You can draft for a current need if the player is coming out of a college program, but out of High School? Obviously not.

          • Tony_Hall

            Really? Most college players still need a year or 2 (if not more) of minor league play. Guys like Appel who people think can start helping in 2014 are the exception, not the rule.

            You draft the best player, especially at the top of the draft, not to fill a hole at the major league level you currently have.

          • GaryLeeT

            Most top ten college draft picks contribute almost immediately. Bryant fits that mold. That was my point. Geez Tony, you and your silly straw men.

          • Tony_Hall

            Most Top 10 contribute immediately….not even close. Many don’t even make it to the majors.

            Have no clue what silly straw men means.

            Not 1 of the Top 10 from 2012 have contributed.

            2011 is starting to get close, with a few that have been up. Bauer is the most. Here is all the Top 10

            Gerrit Cole
            Danny Hultzen
            Trevor Bauer
            Dylan Bundy
            Bubba Starling
            Anthony Rendon
            Archie Bradley
            Francisco Lindor
            Javier Baez
            Cory Spangenberg.

            2010 (3 years ago)

            Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey….that’s it.

            2009 (4 years ago)
            Stephan Strasburg, Dustin Ackley, Mike Minor, Mike Leake, Drew Storen. That’s only half that have even made the majors.

          • GaryLeeT

            They were all drafted out of college?

          • Tony_Hall

            No that is ALL from high school or college.

            The only guys from college would be a couple of them in the last 4 years. Just doesn’t happen very often and even then, usually takes a few years.

          • GaryLeeT

            They are all more than a year away from appearing in the Big Leagues? I bow to your genius great soothsayer.

          • Tony_Hall

            Sorry, you are just plain wrong on this, no team drafts a college player from need.

          • Tony_Hall

            I doubt you will find anyone who thinks a MLB team drafts in the Top 10, let alone the 1st round, from need. Just doesn’t happen.

          • GaryLeeT

            You mean the Rays didn’t need or expect David Price to contribute immediately? OK

          • Tony_Hall

            You take the BEST player. Not who fills a hole at the major league level. When you take the best player you expect them to make it sooner than later.

            And even then he was drafted in June of 2007 and came up as a reliever in Sept 2008.

            Plus you just said most Top 10 college players contribute right away, now you are down to trying to find one that did.

            Mike Leake would be one as well.

          • GaryLeeT

            Try looking at the list you gave me. Of the top five drafted, 4 were out of college. 3 have pitched in the Majors, and the other is in AAA, held back by injury.

          • Tony_Hall

            Please give me the stats of how many Games and IP the guys have played. And do you think any of these picked these players based on need of the major league team?

            Is your argument that guys can contribute quick (of course they can) or that you draft in the 2 spot, based on the need of the MLB team (not a chance)

            Because I believe you were saying we should take Bryant at 2, because he fills a need. I say you only take Bryant if you feel he is the 1st or 2nd best player picking in the 2 hole. Which is exactly how all 30 team do it.

          • GaryLeeT

            You could make that argument for position players, but all 30 teams always NEED pitching.

          • Tony_Hall

            But they are not going to draft in the Top 10, for a need of a rotation guy for the next season.

            I really don’t get your continuing to try and defend this point. NO TEAM drafts like you are suggesting.

            Since you won’t look up the stats here they are, from the draft, 2 years ago and what these guys have contributed from the TOP 5 picks.

            1. G Cole – minors

            2. D Hultzen – minors

            3 T Bauer
            2012 – 4 games 16.1 IP
            6.06 ERA – 1.653 WHIP
            2013 – 3 games, 16.1 IP
            2.76 ERA – 1.469 WHIP
            Currently back in the minors

            4. D Bundy

            2012 – 2 games 1.2 IP
            Currently in the minors.

            So of the Top 5, only 2 have pitched in the majors and ALL are in the minors.


            You said this about these guys “Of the top five drafted, 4 were out of college. 3 have pitched in the Majors, and the other is in AAA, held back by injury” Totally FALSE.

            ALL are in the minors and only 2 have pitched in the majors a total of 34.2 innings.

            Not exactly immediate impact….and this is a good example of guys making it to the majors fast.

    • Tony_Hall

      Extend Garza! I have been saying this since they traded for him, and it is more important now than ever, as we should be able to get him at a discounted rate and for less years, and the return for him in a trade has never been less.

      • Ray Ray

        I agree with you on both of your posts this morning :)

        • Tony_Hall

          It’s about time you start coming around to my way of thinking :)

          • Ray Ray

            Speaking about trading a starting pitcher, I wonder if other executives feel the same way about Feldman as what Ken Rosenthal said. Rosenthal basically called Feldman lucky based on BABIP etc. I heard the same thing said about Travis Wood. Villanueva’s value will not be as high. We will see in another month or so.

          • Tony_Hall

            There value will be more based on teams having a need, and them pitching well through July. No one is going to use April and May stats as the reason to trade for a player in July, to help them in Aug, Sept and Oct. Feldman and Villanueva’s versatility will help their value, if a team has a short term need for a starter.

  • Sonate

    The Cubs have scored 170 runs and allowed 172. That means that they would be a .500 ball club without the bad luck (read: bad bullpen) up to now. I am curious. If they’re 3 above .500 on July 4, does Theo & Co. go for the playoffs now or go for the fire-sale to help the future?

    • Denver Mike

      I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately, and I can’t come up with a scenario where we would be buyers this year.

      Looking at the standings now, the Cubs would likely need to be close to a .600 team to get a wild card spot this year. If they are 3 games over .500 at the trade deadline (7/31) I believe that comes out to a 55-52 (.514) record after 107 games. That means they would have go 42-13 (.763) the remainder of the season to end up 97-65 (.598). Let’s face it, that is never going to happen. Sure, there is a chance they get in with a lesser record, but this front office isn’t going to deviate from their current plan for a fringe shot at getting in.

      I really enjoy watching this team, and I’m as anxious as anyone, but the reality is it’s still going to be a while.

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