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.

After playoff bullpen issues, Cubs again see Pedro Strop as a late-game force

After playoff bullpen issues, Cubs again see Pedro Strop as a late-game force

MESA, Ariz. – Inside Wrigley Field’s state-of-the-art clubhouse, the Cubs posted a blown-up image of the 2015 Sports Illustrated cover where Pedro Strop is high-stepping next to Kris Bryant down the third-base line, the mosh pit awaiting at home plate.

Between his tilted-hat look, chest-pounding celebrations and overall joy for the game, Strop sets an example for the younger guys in the bullpen and the Latin players in the clubhouse. Strop has been so valuable that Jake Arrieta could have never thrown a pitch in a Cubs uniform and Theo Epstein’s front office still would have considered the Scott Feldman trade with the Baltimore Orioles an absolute success.  

Yet when the long rebuild reached its apex – and manager Joe Maddon searched for World Series answers – Strop had already been marginalized in the bullpen. A freak injury – Strop heard a pop and tore the meniscus in his left knee while trying to slide and field a groundball in August – bumped him from his role as the seventh- or eighth-inning stopper.  

“It was a little difficult,” Strop said. “After I came back from my surgery, it was a different situation. But it’s something that you got to get used to and understand the situation, understand how deep our bullpen is and just go and fight whenever they ask you to.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal.”  

During Sunday’s media session, Maddon dismissed any issues with Strop (2.85 ERA) or Hector Rondon, the former 30-save closer who strained his right triceps last summer and didn’t quite get his timing down for the playoffs. Down 3-1 in the World Series, Maddon summoned Aroldis Chapman to throw 97 pitches combined in Games 5, 6 and 7 against the Cleveland Indians.

“Listen, it’s not a lack of trust,” Maddon said. “(Strop) just got hurt. And when you get hurt like that at that time of the year, it’s hard to play catch-up. When guys get injured in-season and you get to the moment where you’re trying to win a championship, you got to put like personal feelings aside on both sides of it, whether you’re managing it or playing.

“I have nothing but trust. My God, the threat is when you have him, you want to use him too much, always. And the same thing with Ronnie. I talked to Ronnie about that – I don’t want to put him in a position. I think Rondon got hurt last year because part of it was my greediness on using him too much in the early part of the season.

“You really have to battle against that when you get guys that good. You want to use them all the time. (I have) a tremendous amount of trust in both of those guys. It’s just a matter of utilizing them properly and keeping them healthy.”

[MORE: What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez]

Since the middle of the 2013 season, Strop has notched 84 holds for the Cubs, putting up a 2.68 ERA and a 0.984 WHIP to go with 254 strikeouts in 211-plus innings. At a time when a $10 billion industry is reassessing the value of high-leverage relievers, Strop will make $5.5 million this year before hitting the open market.

“You never know,” Strop said. “I would love to repeat the championship season and win another one here before I hit free agency. Hopefully, they want to bring me back. I really like the city of Chicago. I love the fans and I love my team and the coaches.

“After this season, it’s going to become business, so hopefully we can put something together.”  

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

MESA, Ariz. – In an alternate universe, Javier Baez might have become the goat after committing two errors in a World Series Game 7. But the young Cubs played without a sense of panic and wanted to write their own history.

Baez shrugged it off in Cleveland and homered off Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber that night. Baez will be remembered as a breakout star from those playoffs, a game-changing defensive force with his mixture of lateral range, rocket-arm strength and instincts for tagging.

But there have also been times where manager Joe Maddon would like Baez to be a little more boring. The next stage of Javy Being Javy would be showing more of the consistency that made Addison Russell an All-Star shortstop at the age of 22. It may also partially explain why Maddon for now still sees Ben Zobrist as his primary second baseman, even after Baez started all 17 postseason games at that position.  

“You definitely continually speak about (how) you want guys to make the routine play routinely,” Maddon said Sunday at the Sloan Park complex. “I’ve often talked about lack of chrome. Gary DiSarcina (with the Angels) was the guy that really embedded that thought in my head, because he was so chrome-less and he was so good at the routine play. I used to always yell that at my infielders in instructional league: ‘No chrome!’

“Having said all that, Javy comes from a different background, and he has a flair about his game, so I don’t necessarily want to subtract that. But just have him understand the routine stuff has to be made routinely well.

“He’s very capable of that. I think as his game continues to develop and mature, you’ll see him make less mistakes, whether it’s that or sometimes even on the bases. He’ll make a spectacular play on the bases and then again do something that you don’t like. But I think that’s just part of his nature and his game.” 

Zobrist delivered a World Series MVP performance after signing a four-year, $56 million contract last winter with the idea that focusing on one position – instead of moving around as a super-utility guy – would help him age better.

“Last year, I played 147 games,” said Zobrist, who will turn 36 in May. “I don’t know what that number’s going to look like. You got to stay healthy. There were probably only a few games that I missed because there was physically something that was keeping me from playing.

“We’ll play it by ear. Some of those will have to do with if I’m a little tired and the matchup is right, maybe they’ll choose to give me an off day on certain days. But I know that there’s other times last year where – whether you’re tired or not – you got to be in there because that’s the matchup that works best for the club. So just make adjustments as the weeks and series go on.”

[MORE: After playoff bullpen issues, Cubs again see Pedro Strop as late-game force]

Maddon is already thinking of ways to rest Zobrist – who played into early November after helping the 2015 Royals win the World Series – on a team with so many versatile athletes. The Cubs could also try to go back to last year’s model, putting Baez wherever their scouting-and-data projections predicted the ball would be hit most that night.

“We have to balance a lot of different things out,” Maddon said. “(Javy’s) going to play some second, of course, and so will Zo. Zo’s going to be out there primarily, and then we’ll work Javy in there. But Zo can also do what he’s done in the past and play some outfield.

“What happens – and I hate to say it like (this) – but baseball has a very cruel way of determining things. I don’t want it to be any injuries. I’d rather have to figure all of this stuff out on a daily basis. Javy was so significant to the conclusion of last season. He’s going to be very significant again this year and years to come.

“It’s all in theory right now. Of course, he’s going to play. Of course, he’s going to play a lot. How it’s going to balance out? We’re not 100 percent sure yet. But he’s pretty darned good.”