Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
9:58 AM Updated 5:06 PM
By David Kaplan
There has much speculation about the Cubs pursuit of Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza and this morning Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times posted a story that says that the Cubs are close to finalizing a trade for the hard throwing 27-year-old.
Wittenmyers report says this:
"The Cubs appear to have moved past the Texas Rangers and into the drivers seat in efforts to acquire Tampa Bay Rays 15-game winner Matt Garza a potential move that could put the Cubs back into the National League Central title conversation for 2011.A major-league source said Tuesday the Cubs were close to trading for the power-pitching right-hander, just as the Rangers were committing a big multiyear deal to third baseman Adrian Beltre and appeared to be pursuing free-agent closer Rafael Soriano. Those efforts come after the Rangers fell short in their efforts to use the money to keep big-ticket free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee.Landing Garza who has as many postseason wins as the returning Cubs roster combined would be a significant response to upstart Cincinnatis pitching-driven division title last season and division-rival Milwaukees trade for Cy Young winner Zack Greinke last month.It would give the Cubs a Ryan Dempster-Garza-Carlos Zambrano top three to their starting rotation and make the back end look stronger with only two spots between Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Samardzija. That would open the door for one or more of them to be traded in a next-step deal, depending on who might be included in a Garza move."
I just spoke with three major league sources who all told me that while there have been discussions about Garza between Tampa Bay and Chicago, no deal is imminent. In fact, names of potential players that the Cubs could include in the deal have not yet been exchanged. The price to land Garza will be very high because of a number of reasons. First, he won 15 games in the rugged AL East which means he has guts and that is tough to find in young, proven pitching. Second, he is only 27 so his best days barring injury should be ahead of him. Third, he is under team control for three more seasons so that cost certainty will be very expensive to acquire, one well known agent told me this morning.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that there are no indication that the Rays are looking to trade any of their six starting pitchers right now unless they are overwhelmed by an offer.
The Cubs are willing to put a solid package of players together if indeed Tampa Bay is willing to move him but unless that package overwhelms Rays GM Andrew Friedman he, according to an excellent source in Tampa, is more than likely to hang on to Garza until he sees what the market is during the season. As to why Tampa would move a young starter that they control who is only 27? First off, after losing the core of their team in free agency, (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, etc) they are not expected to be a contender in 2011. So if they can rebuild a number of spots on their roster by trading a prized commodity in starting pitching where they already have some depth it makes sense to consider it.
Look for Cubs GM Jim Hendry to continue to gauge the price and if it makes sense the Cubs are willing to make the move. They have significant money coming off the books after this coming season so Garza certainly would be an excellent addition going forward. However, the deal is not imminent at this point. Things change quickly in baseball so I will keep you posted as developments occur.
David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.