Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports published a video report in which he noted, based on two unnamed sources, that Texas was apparently "within minutes" of trading for Cubs righthander Matt Garza last July, before backing off due to Garza's barking triceps muscle and turning the discussion with Chicago to the much more inexpensive Ryan Dempster.
The Rangers were reportedly in heavy on Garza after the 2010 season, when the Rays traded Garza to the Cubs. (Peter Gammons suggested that Texas offered to send Derek Holland, Frankie Francisco, and Engel Beltre to the Rays, and Chris Davis to the Cubs for Robinson Chirinos, who would have been flipped to Tampa Bay in the three-way deal.)
Texas was on Garza after the 2011 season, too. At the 2011 Winter Meetings, Gammons suggested the Cubs would have sent Garza to Texas for Martin Perez, Mike Olt, and perhaps another prospect. Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago suggested at those Winter Meetings that the Cubs were asking for Scott Feldman (whom they'd sign a year later) and prospects, while Rosenthal reported that the Rangers found Chicago's ask to be too steep.
The Rangers reportedly chased Garza not only last July but after 2012 as well. Following the Winter Meetings, Levine revisited the idea of Garza-to-Texas and wrote: "I'm sure the Cubs would insist on Olt in any deal involving Garza."
I'm a Matt Garza guy, and have been for a long time.
But the idea of trading for him now scares me.
He'd fit great behind Yu Darvish, he's a proven American League and post-season starter, and you obviously feel better about a playoff rotation (hell, a second-half rotation) in which Holland is your number three rather than your number two. But he's a rental, free to test the market for what will likely be his one shot at a multi-year mega-deal, and if he were to come here and then leave, there's no draft pick compensation.
I'm squarely on record as a "flags fly forever" guy, but that's the thing: Is Texas one frontline starting pitcher short of legitimate World Series sights?
Not for me. There's a huge need for another bat, and maybe two. The Rangers have had a bad year on the health side of things, and there's no guarantee how many (if any) of Joakim Soria and Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz and Jeff Baker and Craig Gentry will return and contribute meaningfully, and, aside from Lance Berkman, I have to cover my eyes just about every time Adrian Beltre has to put his legs in full gear.
The rotation is averaging less than six innings a start. It's putting a heavier load on the bullpen than it did in 2011 or 2012, and while the pen has been really good this year, what happened last night with Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers is a reminder that you just can't ride relievers hard all year and expect them to hold up at the same levels we're accustomed to seeing them pitch at. Soria will help, but that's not going to be enough, even if he's healthy and sharp, and it's hard to imagine Ron Washington taking his foot off the gas with lefthander Neal Cotts, no matter how urgent that seems.
I'd have written the last two paragraphs even if Texas hadn't put Berkman and Nick Tepesch on the disabled list today.
I've shared my fears that Olt could be the Rangers' Jean Segura if he gets moved for a two-month rental who leaves without ever pitching a playoff inning here.
And truthfully, as weak as this winter's free agent starting pitcher class appears to be, and with as many contenders as there always are looking for another playoff starter, the Cubs are going to be able to get a lot more for Garza this month than Olt.
I'm open to trading Olt (or anyone else, in the right context), but would prefer that it not be for a rental.
Trading for Dempster with Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks: Fine. Trading for two months of Garza with a package starting with a player who either fits a long-term need here or could help consummate a trade later on for a bigger, long-term piece is different.
The choice isn't simply between trading for a rental and selling your own veterans.
If you think you're good enough to win it all with the current roster, and the expectation of some help from the disabled list, you can stand pat, and move a couple third-tier prospects for a Dempster/Bengie Molina-like reinforcement or two.
If you think you need to make an impact addition, or two, you can load up to trade for someone with club control left — like you did with Mike Adams and Koji Uehara in 2011, and tried to do with Matt Garza both before that and since.
Now, maybe that deal's just not available. Maybe Toronto (Jose Bautista) and Colorado (Carlos Gonzalez) just won't sell, and maybe Chicago wants too much for Alex Rios. The Rays and Royals have different reasons not to move David Price or James Shields — yet — and maybe you don't believe in Yovani Gallardo or Bud Norris enough to give the Brewers or Astros what they think they're worth.
And maybe the gulf between what Philadelphia would take — if anything — for Cliff Lee and what you'd part with is too massive, when overlaid against how much cash the Phillies would be willing to kick in as a subsidy.
I'm not anywhere close to suggesting the Rangers need to stand pat, and it's silly to suggest Texas ought to consider selling.
But the idea of taking two of my four or five best trade chips and moving them for two months of a number two starter — without making a similar move to impact the offense — may not be enough to make this roster what it needs to be, and compromises the ability to go out this month or this winter or next year and make a blockbuster addition. And that scares me more than just a little bit.
Especially on a day when the club's rotation, lineup, and bench got even thinner.