Kaplan: Cubs discussing Garza; deal not imminent

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Kaplan: Cubs discussing Garza; deal not imminent

Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
9:58 AM Updated 5:06 PM

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

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.

Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

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Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

The Cubs take on the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch 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.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery vs. Jeff Samardzija

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ will headline the group of seven Cubs prospects ticketed for the Arizona Fall League.

As the Cubs project their next wave of talent, Jimenez is thought to be close to untouchable after a breakout performance at the All-Star Futures Game and a Midwest League MVP season at Class-A South Bend.

Jimenez – who originally signed out of the Dominican Republic and got a $2.8 million bonus in the summer of 2013 – is hitting .331 with 14 homers and 81 RBI through 111 games with the South Bend Cubs. At the age of 19, the dynamic outfielder reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman year at the University of San Diego with that 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and powerful right-handed swing.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – is a switch-hitter (.717 OPS at Double-A Tennessee) who has tried to increase his versatility by moving between second base and the outfield and become a Joe Maddon-type player.

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The Mesa Solar Sox roster unveiled Wednesday also includes Victor Caratini, an advanced defensive catcher who drew interest around the trade deadline and could be packaged in a bigger deal for pitching if Willson Contreras continues to develop behind the plate and Kyle Schwarber comes back healthy next season.

Cubs officials trying to build a pitching pipeline for Wrigley Field will also get a look at right-handers James Farris, Ryan McNeil, Stephen Perakslis and Duane Underwood Jr. in the showcase league.

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates and surge into September

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates and surge into September

Another quick hook left Jason Hammel seething over the weekend at Dodger Stadium, bringing back uncomfortable questions about how much manager Joe Maddon trusts him, and whether or not the Cubs would find a spot for him on a playoff roster.

Four days later, Pearl Jam’s “Alive” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system as Hammel warmed up before facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, with no guarantees about October or next season.

Hammel responded with another strong start during Wednesday’s 6-5 victory, completing a three-game sweep that left the Pirates staggering in the wild-card race and helped the Cubs cut their magic number to win the division down to 16.

Outside of a few extreme lows that distorted the perception of his superb overall season – 10-run outings against the New York Mets and at Coors Field and the 39 pitches he dismissively called a side day in Los Angeles – Hammel has been an integral part of the elite rotation that pushed the Cubs to such a huge lead in the National League Central.

Now up 15 games on the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs surged into September with an 85-47 record, an expectation their pitching staff will get healthy and become whole again and a sense of harmony within their clubhouse.

“That’s rearview mirror now,” Hammel said, wearing a Pearl Jam shirt during his postgame press conference. “Joe and I talked it out. There’s no room for off-the-field BS or disagreements or to hold a grudge. 

“I told him how I felt. He told me how he felt and the reasoning for everything. We’re grown men. We solved it and have to respect each other’s views and opinions. To carry something like that would really mess up something special we got going on right now.”

Hammel (14-7, 3.14 ERA) shut down the Pirates for six innings, allowing only one run, scattering three hits and showing the confidence that made him an All-Star-level performer in the first half. 

Hammel regained control of his fastball, spun some curveballs and incorporated a changeup to create doubt in hitters’ minds and add a different wrinkle to opposing scouting reports. He limited the damage to one run in the fifth inning, working around three walks and screaming and flexing his muscles after striking out Andrew McCutchen swinging at a 93-mph fastball to end the threat.

“Yeah, I wanted to get back out there,” Hammel said. “The last one just didn’t sit well with me. So far, so good.”

On a night when the crowd chanted “MVP,” Kris Bryant backed Hammel by launching his 36th homer and playing Gold Glove-level defense at third base. Bryant saved a run by diving to his left to catch a Sean Rodriguez line drive and end the second inning. Bryant began the fourth inning with his answer to Anthony Rizzo’s tarp catch, leaning over the wall and into the stands to catch a Josh Bell pop-up.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

But the defensive play of the night belonged to Addison Russell, who with the bases loaded and the Cubs trying to protect a 5-2 lead, raced over from shortstop and made a sliding catch near the left-field line to end the seventh inning.

“This team’s going to be really good for a long time,” said Hammel, who had been packaged with Jeff Samardzija – Thursday’s starter for the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field – in the Russell trade with the Oakland A’s in 2014. “These kids – I say kids now, because I can, because I’m old – they’re impressive and they continue to dazzle.

“You can’t really say surprised, because we’ve come to expect all these great plays and the big knocks that they’re driving in. We’re witnessing greatness.”

After getting 22 wins in a month for the first time since September 1945, this could become the next awkward conversation: If John Lackey (shoulder) returns to full strength – and the rest of the rotation doesn’t experience any setbacks down the stretch – what are the chances of Hammel making a playoff start?

“Stay healthy and we’ll see what happens,” Maddon said. “I don’t bet on the come. Let’s get to the playoffs first, make sure everybody’s well, and at that point then you look at the group you have. And then maybe at that point you look at the group you may be playing. And then you try to formulate the best plan of attack from your personnel versus their personnel. 

“I’ve not even thought about a playoff moment once.”

The Cubs will now have all of September to think about October.