Matt Garza blocks out all the noise. He plugs headphones into his ears and pulls a hooded sweatshirt so far down it nearly covers his entire face.
There are times in the clubhouse where Garza seems like hes in his own world. Before playoff starts with the Tampa Bay Rays, he tried to think about the game as little as possible.
Thats how Garzas going to approach the trade rumors that are only going to intensify when the industry begins checking into the Hilton Anatole on Sunday in Dallas.
Garza would prefer to remain underground until pitchers and catchers report. Hes immune to the speculation by now: I've gone through it for the last six years of my career.
What Theo Epstein does with Garza will be a window into what he thinks about the Cubs, how long before they can realistically get back into contention.
This front office knows that Garza has guts. He didnt back down in a brutal division. He knocked the Boston Red Sox out of the 2008 ALCS. He delivered seven innings of one-run ball in Game 7 and picked up an MVP award.
I know how to beat 'em, Garza said with a smile. I like the teams I faced there. Hopefully, we can build one here.
Garza stood beneath the Wrigley Field marquee on Saturday night, next to Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, for a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony that brought out the Ricketts family and a line of politicians that included Gov. Pat Quinn.
Garza is still a Cub, and the sense is that he probably will remain one unless Epstein gets blown away with an offer for the 28-year-old pitcher. The president of baseball operations has described him as exactly the type of guy that wed like to build around.
Thats awesome. Thats a huge compliment, Garza said. But like I said, I stay out of it until I show up for spring training.
The issue is that Garzas timeline might not match up exactly with Epsteins vision for rebuilding. Garza banked almost 6 million last season, and will be eligible for arbitration the next two years. Hed be ideal for a team that expects to play in October.
The same value wont be there if the Cubs are losing 91 games again. Then again, Epstein said youre going to need your ninth starter at some point during the course of the season. So why trade away your best one?
To this point, Epstein and Garza have only really said hello. They havent sat down for a significant meeting. Epstein mentioned that trades arent the only way to create a long-term asset. You can also do contract extensions.
I'm open to whatever, Garza said. My family lives here, if that's any indication. My family goes everywhere. I just want to play the game. It doesn't bother me where I play. I do love Chicago, but that's the way it goes.
Garzas making Chicago his offseason home, and has enrolled his children in school here. His career record is 52-54 with a 3.83 ERA, but with his raw talent there are reasons to think bigger.
After being traded twice already, Garza certainly understands this is a business. Hes just not particularly interested in the details. He stays in contact with his agent, but otherwise doesnt pay attention to it.
He said it's going to be an active winter meetings, so watch the TV, Garza said. I (told him): Well, Ill be in Italy. I'm going to completely stay out of everything. I'm just going to enjoy my offseason. That's about it.
So Garzas going to Italy on vacation next week. His next destination will say a lot about where the Cubs are heading.