Cubs counting on a strong return by Garza

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Cubs counting on a strong return by Garza

NASHVILLE, Tenn. One year from now, Matt Garza could be the type of big-game pitcher that teams are fighting over at the winter meetings.

But that presumes Garzas completely healthy and puts together the type of monster season the Cubs believe hes capable of having.

Garzas expected to begin throwing within the next several days as he recovers from the stress reaction in his right elbow. The Cubs met with his agents here at the Gaylord Opryland and have received good reports from their medical staff. Signs are pointing to him being in the Opening Day rotation.

His mood, his optimism seems really good, and sometimes you have to gauge a lot based on that, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. He was pretty down in July and early August. You could tell he knew there was something wrong with him. Now you get the sense that hes excited to get going and start his real rehab.

His mood is hopefully indicative of a totally healthy guy that can be ready to go in spring training.

Theres nothing subtle about Garza, from his tattoos to his money quotes to the shaving-cream pies he liked to slam into teammates faces during postgame television interviews. His state of mind is telling.

You know Garza, manager Dale Sveum said. He cant wait to get back on the mound. (But) right now, hes at baby steps.

The Cubs shut down Garza in the second half of last season and didnt push his return with the team so far out of contention. Even if he had pitched into September, this is still roughly the time hed start cranking it up and throwing again.

The Cubs would love to see Garza channel all that intensity in the right direction and become a complete pitcher. That means finishing hitters and fielding his position. (Remember all those wild throws to first base winding up in the stands?) In what looks like his final season before hitting free agency, there will be plenty of motivation.

Hes the type of pitcher thats a frontline guy that can and should be a No. 1, No. 2 (starter), Sveum said. But he has to get to that level of winning and not giving games away with that kind of stuff, and he knows that. Hell be the first one to tell you theres something that always gets in the way of domination.

Cubs finalizing blockbuster deal for Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman

Cubs finalizing blockbuster deal for Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman

The Cubs are putting the finishing touches on a blockbuster deal to acquire superstar closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees, sources said Monday, in a win-now move that would cement their status as World Series favorites.

The headliner for the Yankees will be Gleyber Torres, a consensus top prospect and a defensively gifted shortstop who's only 19 years old and didn't have a clear path to Chicago with Addison Russell and Javier Baez already in place.

The Yankees are also planning to bring back Adam Warren, the swingman who didn't quite fit on this pitching staff this year after coming to Chicago in the Starlin Castro trade.

The Cubs would also give up two minor-league outfielders for essentially two-plus months of Chapman throwing 100 mph out of their bullpen: Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford.

Stay with CSNChicago.com for more as this story develops.

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs are in the final stages of a blockbuster deal that could bring superstar closer Aroldis Chapman to Chicago and would involve sending elite shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees, sources familiar with the situation said Sunday night.

The exact details aren’t clear, but the talks reached a point where the Cubs pulled Torres from the lineup at advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach, at least sensing the strong possibility of a trade that would add a 105-mph closer to a first-place team that entered the year as World Series favorites.

Chapman, 28, began this season serving a 30-game suspension covered by Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy after a dispute with his girlfriend in South Florida last fall. In absorbing a supremely talented player with real baggage, the Cubs would believe in manager Joe Maddon’s personality and a strong clubhouse culture, figuring it might only be a two-month-plus rental before Chapman cashes in as a free agent. 

That incident scared the Cubs away during the offseason, when a Chapman trade between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers collapsed at the winter meetings as those police reports surfaced. The Yankees waited for the price to drop, acquired the flame-throwing lefty at a steep discount and weathered the PR storm. 

Chapman enjoyed the bright lights and performed in New York, converting 20-of-21 save chances and striking out 44 batters in 31-plus innings. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo – who once challenged the Cincinnati dugout to a fight after Chapman buzzed two 100-mph pitches near a teammate’s head – said last month: “The game’s over when he comes in.”

That would be the idea for Theo Epstein’s front office, creating a dominant force that could help carry the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908. 

Even Hector Rondon – who’s developed into a very good closer while the Cubs rebuilt their organization (77 saves since 2014) – recently admitted he would understand if the Cubs decided to trade with the Yankees.

“If they bring in a Chapman or (an Andrew) Miller, if they put him in my spot, whatever, s--- happens,” Rondon said last week. “I can’t control that. The most important thing for me is to come into the game, pitch my inning – whatever inning they put me in – and do my job.
    
“If we get one of those guys, I’m fine. It’s better for us.”

Torres is only 19 years old and a consensus top prospect, showing up in the midseason rankings on ESPN (No. 26), Baseball America (No. 27) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 34). The Cubs had signed Torres out of Venezuela during the summer of 2013, giving him a $1.7 million bonus and trying to stockpile enough assets to create a perennial contender. It sounds like it’s almost time to cash in one of those huge trade chips.

While Cubs try to deal for Aroldis Chapman, White Sox deal with Chris Sale fallout

While Cubs try to deal for Aroldis Chapman, White Sox deal with Chris Sale fallout

MILWAUKEE – A franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse. 

While the Cubs moved toward closing a deal with the New York Yankees for superstar closer Aroldis Chapman on Sunday night, the White Sox dealt with the fallout from Chris Sale’s “insubordination.”

As Sale continues serving his five-game suspension for playing with scissors, on Monday night the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner. A lineup built around MVP candidates Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant will get to swing away at U.S. Cellular Field.

The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.

One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be about which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run (with Gleyber Torres expected to be included in any Chapman trade with the Yankees). 

Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. 

The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion and come back during a five-run seventh inning. That’s when the lineup looked more like its relentless April version with Tommy La Stella (3-for-3, walk, RBI double), Rizzo (three-run, bases-loaded double) and Ben Zobrist (2-for-3, two RBI).

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Trading for Chapman as a potential final piece to the World Series puzzle would at least shift some of the crosstown focus off Sale.

“I’m sure there were some things that transpired that we’re not hearing about,” Lester said. “I don’t know him too well, but I know Chris a little bit. I don’t think that really sounds like him too much. I’m sure there were some other things involved. 

“We’re all weird. Pitchers are all weird. We all like our comfort of different things. It just doesn’t really sound like him. I’m sure there’s some information in there that we’re not being told.”

Three sellout crowds in Milwaukee this weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.

“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”