The deal: Hendrys pursuit of Garza finally pays off

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The deal: Hendrys pursuit of Garza finally pays off

Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011
7:00 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Matt Garza had seen his name mentioned in trade rumors, but the news still caught him off-guard. For Jim Hendry, the pursuit of this front-line starter had been all-consuming.

By Hendrys count, he had spoken to Andrew Friedman every day except Christmas and New Years across the past month. It was more than just a wild idea bounced around the lobby of a Disney World resort during the winter meetings.

The Rays executive was motivated to sell and looking toward his teams next window of opportunity competing directly against the industrys superpowers in Boston and New York.

Years from now, maybe pitcher Chris Archer and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee will help form the core of the next great team in Tampa. Those two prospects were key pieces in an eight-player trade made official Saturday.

But the Cubs see Garza, 27, paying immediate dividends. They view him as a proven playoff performer, someone who will help lift them into contention next season and beyond.

Garza will be under team control for the next three seasons. And by 2014, when the 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound right-hander will first be eligible for free agency, no one knows where this franchise will be. For the Cubs general manager, this deal strikes a balance.

We look at this as a great trade for the present and the future, Hendry said on a teleconference. Were not giving away the farm trying to win this year. That couldn't be farther from the truth with a guy like Matt Garza.

With all the physicals complete, the Cubs will also receive Fernando Perez, a 27-year-old outfielder who was educated at Columbia University, has major-league experience, and can run and play defense. They also get left-hander Zachary Rosscup, 22, who went 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 12 appearances last season in the low minors.

The price included Archer, Lee, converted catcher Robinson Chirinos, and outfielders and Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld. Thats not unreasonable for a No. 2 starter who will earn around 6 million this season through arbitration especially since Hendry felt he was competing against four or five other teams for Garza.

The Cubs are confident that their system and their financial resources are deep enough to absorb the loss of Archer, who was the organizations 2010 minor league pitcher of the year after going 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA during a season split between Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

He aspires to be someone like Garza in a few years, and we hope that happens, Hendry said. The names change every year. The Rays had every right to expect a guy like him.

The Cubs once liked a free agent named Ted Lilly because he was competitive, durable and proven in the American League East. In moving from a brutal division to the weaker National League Central, there is a reasonable expectation that Garza can annually win 15 games, make 30 starts and account for 200 innings.

Manager Mike Quade and pitching coach Mark Riggins are two baseball lifers who spent decades in the minor leagues waiting for this opportunity. They already had options as they looked at the 2011 rotation: Andrew Cashner, Tom Gorzelanny, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Casey Coleman and Jeff Samardzija.

But that group is labeled with question marks, the uncertainty of whether they have the stuff and confidence to remain healthy and productive for an entire season. Garza, a former first-round pick with an ALCS MVP award and a no-hitter on his resume, gives them a better chance to win, now and later.

Garza whos 34-31 with a 3.86 ERA since 2008 should be a building block for what could be an even bigger offseason at this time next year.

The Cubs could free up to nearly 40 million in payroll through buyouts, declined options and expiring contracts for Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, John Grabow, Silva and Samardzija.

Carlos Pena, Garzas teammate in small-market Tampa, and Kerry Wood are working on one-year deals worth roughly a combined 11.5 million. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano could be free agents after the 2012 season. The money will be there if Garza wants it.

Garza is an emotional pitcher who says that he has matured, that he wanted this trade completed before the season started so that he could get his three children settled. Soon we will find out if this only looked good on paper.

(The Rays) gave me the opportunity and stuck behind me through the good and the bad. Its a shame it had to be like that, but its the nature of the beast, Garza said. (Now) lets try to get this turned around in the right direction. We have a lot of pieces of the puzzle.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester didn't make any sort of statement by missing Monday's White House trip with his Cubs teammates. But at a polarizing moment in a divided country, a high-profile player on a World Series team felt the need to respond on social media and explain his absence from the championship ceremony. 

President Barack Obama name-checked Lester during his East Room speech – both for his spectacular pitching performance and beat-cancer charitable initiatives – as the Cubs continued their victory tour off the franchise's first World Series title since Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House.

Lester stood behind Obama when the 2013 Boston Red Sox were honored on the South Lawn. During that 2014 ceremony, Lester stood next to John Lackey, another Cub who missed this Washington trip. Lester also toured George W. Bush's White House with Boston's 2007 championship team.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and with the specter of Donald Trump's inauguration looming – Obama used his administration's final official White House event to draw a direct line between him and Jackie Robinson and highlight the connective power of sports.

"The best part was the president talking about how sports brings people together," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, "how no matter what's going on in this country and the world, three or four hours of any one particular game can just rally so many people together." 

This team couldn't have created so much joy for generations of fans without Lester, who signed a $155 million contract with the last-place Cubs after the 2014 season, a transformational moment during the long rebuild that led to the White House trip that Obama never thought would happen.

"It was a thrill and an honor for all of us," team president Theo Epstein said. "It means so much more with his roots in Chicago and his final days in office. It couldn't have worked out any better. It's something we'll all remember for our whole lives."

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

Plenty of Cubs fans surely were star-struck to meet Addison Russell at Cubs Convention last weekend. But the 22-year-old All-Star shortstop has a shortlist of people he would be amazed to meet, too. 

Russell reveres President Barack Obama, on Friday the outgoing Commander-in-Chief's work in the community when talking about getting to visit the White House. So on Monday, Russell got to check off meeting one of the people on his list. "There's probably about three people that I would be star-struck by, and (Obama's) one of them," Russell said. 

One of those three spots is "open," Russell said. The other member of that list is former Ohio State and Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George. 

Russell wears his No. 27 because of George, who wore that number during his career in which he made four Pro Bowls and rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns. Prior to the 2016 season, George sent Russell and autographed Titans helmet inscribed with good luck message.

After the season, Russell said George texted him seeing if the newly-crowned champion had time to chill. Few things rattled Russell last year — he became the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series when he blasted one in Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians last November — but getting a text from George did. "I couldn't text back," Russell said. "It was nuts. I waited four days because I was thinking of what back to say."

Even the most famous athletes still get star-struck. Russell's been lucky enough in the last few months to meet and hear from two of the people who bring out that sense of awe in him. "Just to come in contact with people like that, it just makes me smile," Russell said. "It definitely gets me in the mood of getting better, and that's the goal this year, is getting better."