PHOENIX – Matt Garza doesn’t have to be a trending topic on Twitter or the 24/7 trade target anymore. This isn’t a rumor or speculation. He’s a Texas Ranger now.
The Cubs finally completed the deal on Monday, not risking Garza making his start against the Arizona Diamondbacks and instead potentially collecting five prospects from a deep Texas system.
Who’s next? Early Tuesday morning, a New York Post report had the Yankees close to making a deal for Alfonso Soriano, which would tear another big-name, big-money player from the clubhouse.
Broadly speaking, the Cubs have signaled a willingness to subsidize a significant portion of the $25 million left on Soriano’s megadeal, and he’s said to have softened his no-trade stance.
The Yankees have had one of their top scouts following the Cubs from Denver to Phoenix on this road trip. Soriano has talked often about how much icons like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter meant to him as a young player in New York.
Soriano was reacting to the Garza news when he was asked another question about his future and the organization’s direction.
“I don’t even want to think about it,” Soriano said before a 4-2 win at Chase Field. “I don’t want to hear my name in trade deadline (rumors). It’s part of the game. I don’t want to pay attention (to it). I just want to play my game.”
The Cubs (44-53) are out to collect as many young, cost-controlled assets as possible. They flipped Garza for third baseman Mike Olt, right-handers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards and one or two pitchers to be named later, depending on who’s selected from a group of prospects.
The Rangers will be responsible for the almost $4 million owed Garza before he hits free agency, and it will be money well spent for a World Series-or-bust team.
“Matt is my boy,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “He’s one of those guys that you can’t stand him, but you can’t live without him.”
Teammates and coaches love Soriano, but he’s 37 years old and the Cubs are holding auditions for the future.
Junior Lake went 4-for-5 with a home run and three RBI in his fourth game in the majors. When asked if he’s seen enough to know Lake should stick, manager Dale Sveum said: “Right now, I’d be pretty stupid to say no.”
Chris Rusin was on Garza alert with Triple-A Iowa. He missed his flight from Dallas on Sunday night, traveled to Arizona on Monday morning and allowed two runs in five innings to beat the Diamondbacks (51-48) and probably earn another start.
The day before, Sveum made a “100 percent” guarantee that Garza would be pitching at Chase Field. But general manager Jed Hoyer admitted the Cubs engineered their rotation out of the All-Star break with the intention of trading Garza before his next start.
“It’s part of the game,” Sveum said. “It’s where our organization is right now. (You) get really good talent built up in the organization, so that day when you’re ready to win and do things, you can go out and get a player like Garza because you have players that other people want.”
The Rangers named Olt their 2012 minor league player of the year after he hit .288 with 28 homers and 82 RBI in 95 games for Double-A Frisco, living up to the potential they saw when they made him a supplemental first-round pick out of the University of Connecticut in the 2010 draft.
But Olt, 24, became a buy-low prospect this season after getting hit by a pitch in winter ball, suffering a concussion and developing vision problems. The Cubs had tried to acquire Olt when discussing Garza last season, as well as in the Ryan Dempster trade talks.
[CUBS PGL: Lake's big night in Arizona]
Grimm, 24, is 7-7 with a 6.37 ERA in 17 starts for the Rangers this season. He was a fifth-round pick out of the University of Georgia in 2010 and will report to Iowa along with Olt.
Edwards, 21, will be sent to advanced Class-A Daytona and could wind up being a key piece in the deal. He’s 13-5 with a 1.68 ERA in 32 career games (31 starts) in the low minors.
The Cubs were close to trading Garza to Texas on Friday, before the negotiations hit a snag over the medicals, and those delays and complications should be a reminder in any possible Soriano deal. Talks picked back up again over the weekend, with the Rangers going all-in for the best pitcher on the market, someone who’s playoff-tested and 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA across his last six starts.
“Garza Watch” is over.
“I’m glad that it’s done,” Navarro said. “We just got to turn the page and refocus.”
Except now it looks like it will be “Sori Time.”