Which team has the best package to offer for Garza?

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Which team has the best package to offer for Garza?

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done a great job of dangling Matt Garza so far this offseason. By mentioning they are open for business on the right-handed starter, they have acquired the interest of five teams, all with eyes of contending in 2012 and all searching for one more starter to add to the rotation.

But of those five teams, which has the best package to offer the Cubs?

Yankees

Let's start with the biggest team with traditionally the biggest payroll. It's no secret the Yankees are searching for pitching, but at what cost?

According to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com, the Cubs are asking for at least two of the Yanks' three top prospects in catcher Jesus Montero, right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Manny Banuelos. Matthews says there's no way New York makes that move, and that's understandable.

Montero's bat is big-league ready while Betances, 23, and Banuelos, 20, finished last season at Triple-A and may be less than a year off of joining an MLB rotation.

But the Cubs have to be motivated to trade Garza and have said they would need to be blown away on a deal. Not sure if the Yankees are prepared to blow anybody away by dealing two -- or all three -- of these guys.

Red Sox

Jon Heyman brought up the idea of the Cubs working out a deal with the Red Sox for Garza that would also take care of the Theo Epstein compensation issue. It's not the craziest idea in the world, but I doubt that's what happens.

The Red Sox don't have many big-time pitching prospects to offer the Cubs in return and appear to be the least motivated of the five teams, at least publicly.

However, if the Yankees ramp up their interest, maybe the Red Sox get more desperate. They've got a big brotherlittle brother type of thing going there.

Blue Jays

Let's keep it in the AL East.

I actually really like what the Blue Jays could give up for Garza, but are now reportedly unlikely to make a deal. That could change or it could just be a negotiating technique.

But the Jays have just what the Cubs need: a slew of young pitching prospects, headlined by Kyle Drabek (who was once dealt as a major piece for Roy Halladay but has since fallen on hard times), Deck McGuire (who some think may be near major-league ready) and Drew Hutchison. The Toronto farm system is crawling with a bunch of young, high-upside guys and the Cubs could easily ask for a package containing two or three of them.

The Blue Jays also have several catching and outfield options. Travis D'Arnaud, the organization's top prospect, is just about major-league ready but has J.P. Arencibia blocking him behind the dish. The Jays could deal one of these guys (or the less-heralded A.J. Jimenez) for pitching.

Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick headline the Blue Jays' top outfielders and could help pad a potential deal for Garza.

Marlins

We already went into a bit of detail about what the Cubs could get from Miami for Garza, but it's still intriguing. Since the Marlins don't have much in the way of pitching prospects, they may have to throw more position players at Theo and Jed in order to get their hands on Garza.

If the Nationals do wind up signing Prince Fielder, the Marlins will have to make another move to make sure they will compete in the NL East in 2012. The Marlins already felt pressure playing in a division where the Phillies and Braves are kings, but the Nats then went out and traded for Gio Gonzalez, closing the walls in further on Ozzie Guillen's new team.

2010 first-rounder OF Christian Yelich would be the cornerstone of any deal with Miami, and first baseman Gaby Sanchez would also likely be involved, as well as possibly third baseman Matt Dominguez or reliever Jose Ceda.

Tigers

If the Tigers are willing to give up top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, as ESPN's Buster Olney has suggested, we could have a winner in the Garza sweepstakes.

The 20-year-old Turner got a cup of coffee in the bigs last year and while he struggled, he turned in a great 2011 at two stops at Double-A and Triple-A.

Third baseman Nick Castellanos, the Tigers' consensus No. 2 prospect, is probably off limits if Turner is on the table. Rumor has it the A's balked at sending Gonzalez to Detroit because the Tigers refused to deal both Castellanos and Turner.

Either way, the Tigers still have a healthy dose of pitching prospects in their system as well as some decent positions players. If Turner is involved as the cornerstone and two or three other prospects are thrown in the deal, this may be the best Theo and Jed can do.

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

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Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping rookie Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch hitting. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Jon Lester vs. Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field – the playoff matchup the Cubs dreaded in an elimination game – will happen more than seven months later under far different circumstances.

The Cubs have a 2016 championship banner flying next to the iconic center-field scoreboard – the ultimate response to any questions about their slow start to this season. The San Francisco Giants can’t have Madison Bumgarner saunter out of the bullpen when he’s recovering from a dirt-bike accident, another reason why an odd-year team is much closer to last place than first in an improved National League West.

The Giants don’t have the same aura, because the Cubs staged an epic comeback to end a best-of-five division series last October, scoring four runs again five different relievers in the ninth inning at AT&T Park.

“I’m telling you, man, Game 4 pretty much won the World Series,” Joe Maddon said. “I did not want to see Mr. Cueto pitching back here again. I’ll get to see him (Tuesday night), but that’s OK, compared to whatever that day would’ve been.”

Maddon has admitted this already, but it is still telling from a manager who always tries to stay in the moment and ignore the negativity. It says something about a Giant franchise that had won 10 straight postseason elimination games and World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – and a fan base that used to expect things to go wrong in Wrigleyville after more than a century of losing.

“That whole Game 4 in San Francisco, I did focus on that a lot,” Maddon said. “Just trying to understand Game 5 back at home – how this is going to play out – and do whatever we possibly can to win that game there that night in San Francisco.

“That was the game for me – out of the entire postseason. To have to play the Giants where they were battle-tested – Game 5, back here with (Cueto) pitching – I did not like that at all. I thought that pretty much the postseason hinged on that one game in San Francisco.”

Even though the Cubs still had to survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers before winning their first NL pennant in 71 years. And come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series and beat the Cleveland Indians on the road in a 10-inning Game 7 for the ages.

[RELATED: Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen]

“That’s what good teams do,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re a very talented club, very solid all around. You don’t win the World Series unless you are.

“Look back at our success, how many times were we looking at elimination? No, you’re never surprised in the postseason. Anything those teams do, it’s because they’re there for a reason. They’re very good.”

Lester beat Cueto in a 1-0 instant classic when Javier Baez lifted a 3-2 quick pitch into the basket beneath the video ribbon in the left-field bleachers. Cueto kept the Cubs so off-balance in Game 1 that Baez actually walked up to home plate in the eighth inning thinking bunt.

The Giants reacted to that Game 4 meltdown by giving All-Star closer Mark Melancon a four-year, $62 million contract at the winter meetings, trying to fix a bullpen that led the majors with 30 blown saves last season.

“It was close,” Bochy said. “Three outs from taking it to Game 5 with a pretty good pitcher going. We can speculate all we want. There’s no point in that. It didn’t happen.

“But, sure, you look back. That’s how tight that series was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on. Give them credit – great job coming back. We’re a team that plays very well under pressure, and we did there. Just couldn’t hold on to that ninth inning.”