Garza unplugged: Beating Theo and the chase for a ring

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Garza unplugged: Beating Theo and the chase for a ring

MESA, Ariz. This was Matt Garza unplugged, predicting that Carlos Zambrano would contend for the Cy Young and bragging about how he used to own Theo Epsteins teams.

Garza doesnt like to sit still, and he doesnt particularly enjoy talking to the media. But when he does, well, forget it, hes rolling.

At this time last year, no one was quite sure what the Cubs got from Tampa Bay in a blockbuster eight-player trade. Garza doesnt think his comfort level has changed: It was more everybody else getting comfortable with me.

Garza didnt disappoint the crowd around his locker on Sunday. A Boston reporter working on an Epstein feature asked the 2008 ALCS MVP what he knew about his new boss.

That I was able to kick the crap out of him every year, Garza said. Thats what I learned. But the ballclubs he built were always good. He brought up (Dustin) Pedroia (and Jacoby) Ellsbury (and Kevin) Youkilis through the farm. Thats how you keep a championship-caliber ballclub.

The Yankees learned it late, (but) now theyre doing the same thing, running everything through the farm. And if you look at the sleeper teams over there in Tampa, theyve been doing it for the last 10 seasons. They might have sucked for eight, but they cant be stopped now.

Thats what baseballs turned into. (The) route were going is awesome.It was time for it.

Rebuilding the right way could mean trading the 28-year-old Garza, or extending him with a long-term contract, two options the Cubs considered over the winter. Either way, he wont take it personally.

Garza certainly wasnt bothered by the Red Sox using his name as a starting point in the Epstein compensation negotiations.

Why not? Hes a great GM (who) won two World Series, Garza said. Why not go after a starter (for an area) they lacked depth in? Go after (Starlin) Castro, a guy whos 21 and already an All-Star, (or) a premier prospect in (Brett) Jackson, why not? Why not see what you can get. I would. I would ask for the farm.

Whats Garza going to ask for in his next contract? Hes vowed to keep those demands out of the media. But a good reference point would be the five-year, 65 million the White Sox recently gave John Danks.

Garza who will make 9.5 million this year and is under club control through the 2013 season enjoys living in Chicago. It doesnt sound like hed cut off negotiations once the season starts, or consider these talks (or the constant trade rumors) a distraction.

I dont focus on anything like that, unless something came across like, Whoa! Garza said. Then I would definitely sit down and think about it. But right now, my agent knows where Im at and where I want to be at and thats all there is to it.

Youre not going to hear a peep from me. My job is to get ready for April 5 (and) try to get this team to the postseason.

How far are the Cubs from the playoffs? What they do with Garza could be telling.

First-year manager Dale Sveum watched Garza push the Rays into the World Series, and noticed the wound-up personality that leads him to yell from the top of the dugout on the days he doesnt pitch. It reminded Sveum of David Cone, another big-game pitcher who liked to irritate opponents.

You knew there was something special (in Garza) with the stuff and that inner-cockiness, Sveum said. When you got an arm and a competitor like that, a guy (with character who) works that hardthats the kind of guy a manager wants to see somebody give a long-term contract to not trade.

Garzas 2008 ALCS ring, which was covered in diamonds and valued at 30,000, was stolen from his Fresno County (Calif.) home last month. He found out Saturday that the police have no new leads and plan to suspend the case.

Its a tough break, Garza said, but I got better news because today camp starts, so (were) ready to go try to earn another onea bigger one.

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Thursday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Thursday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Thursday night, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage from South Florida begins with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jake Arrieta (6-5, 4.64 ERA) vs. Jeff Locke (0-2, 4.58 ERA)

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Cubs sign first-round pick Brendon Little to $2.2 million deal

Cubs sign first-round pick Brendon Little to $2.2 million deal

In their never-ending arms race, the Cubs have agreed to a $2.2 million bonus with first-round pick Brendon Little, part of a wave of signings that should be finalized soon.

A team source confirmed the slightly below-slot ($2.3733 million) deal reported Wednesday by Jim Callis, MLB.com’s prospects guru. The Cubs are betting on Little’s age-20 potential, left-handed look, mid-90s fastball and what they perceive to be one of the best curveballs in this year’s draft. 

Little threw only four innings as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, opened eyes in the Cape Cod League and then decided to go the junior-college route. It paid off this season at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, where Little averaged 14.03 strikeouts per nine innings as a sophomore, putting up a 2.53 ERA in 15 starts while walking only 33 batters in 85-plus innings.

Alex Lange – the other headliner from this draft class selected three spots after Little at No. 30 – has been occupied pitching for Louisiana State University in the College World Series.