What Cubs are looking for in Garza deal

What Cubs are looking for in Garza deal
July 17, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Matt Garza can put on sunglasses, plug in the earphones and flip the hoodie over his head. But for someone who likes to get in the zone when he pitches, there is a lot of noise.

With the All-Star Game over, the Garza sweepstakes is baseball's next big national story (at least in the non-Biogenesis division). The Cubs want the bidding war, believing a contending team will see him as the final piece that will put them over the top and into the World Series.

Whether or not Garza makes it to Coors Field, or even lasts through this weekend's series against the Colorado Rockies, his next start is viewed as a soft deadline. That's Monday night at Chase Field against the Arizona Diamondbacks, another team that's in the market for pitching and generating buzz about Garza.

The Texas Rangers have tracked Garza during a hot streak (5-0 with a 1.24 ERA across his last six starts) that has shown he's healthy and capable of being a difference-maker. They already have four starters on the disabled list - Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis - in what's supposed to be a go-for-it year.

[RELATED: Kaplan: Suitors aplenty, Cubs' asking price for Garza remains high]

After an industry source mentioned Jurickson Profar as a possible piece in a Garza deal last week, that idea was relayed to a Cubs official, who responded by going Hawk Harrelson: "Are you (bleeping) me?" Garza is a good pitcher, but he's still only a rental, while Profar is 20 years old and regarded as one of the best prospects in the game.

The Cubs are using Zack Greinke as a model. On July 27 last year, the Los Angeles Angels gave up three pieces to get 13 starts from Greinke, who cashed in as a free agent with a $147 million guarantee from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Milwaukee Brewers received two Double-A starting pitching prospects in Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena, who are now both 24 years old. The centerpiece became Jean Segura, an All-Star shortstop now, but then a raw prospect who began the 2012 season with only seven games of experience above the Class-A level.

Garza doesn't have Greinke's Cy Young hardware, but he's as good as it gets in this trade market if the Philadelphia Phillies don't make Cliff Lee available.

There's a sense the Cubs will push to get at least one piece that's close to major-league ready. In flipping another rental pitcher (Scott Feldman) to the Baltimore Orioles this month, they got a setup guy with swing-and-miss stuff (Pedro Strop) as well as a 2012 Opening Day starter (Jake Arrieta).

That same week, the Dodgers absorbed the rest of Ricky Nolasco's $11.5 million salary and gave up three minor-league pitchers in another rental-pitcher deal with the Miami Marlins.

Along with the Rangers, the Dodgers showed a strong interest in Garza last summer, before an elbow injury took him off the trade market. While Ryan Dempster tried to use his no-trade rights and engineer a deal with the Dodgers, he had to settle for the Rangers in his walk year.

The Cubs wound up with two players - pitcher Kyle Hendricks and third baseman Christian Villanueva - who became Southern League All-Stars this season at Double-A Tennessee.

[RELATED: Cubs on 'Garza Watch' heading into All-Star break]

The Cubs have a good working relationship with the Rangers. More than 10 years ago, future Texas general manager Jon Daniels was a finalist for an internship with the Boston Red Sox that went to future Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. Last November, the Rangers hit the reset button on the Geovany Soto trade, allowing the Cubs to swap out pitchers (Barret Loux for Jake Brigham).

The Cubs front office certainly has a feel for the Red Sox system, which could be tested if All-Star Clay Buchholz (neck strain) stays on the disabled list deeper into the summer.

Garza has no fear of the American League East. He also has an ALCS MVP award on his resume from that miracle run with the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.

Any buyer will have to weigh Garza's medical history as well as the acquisition cost (no draft-pick compensation under this collective bargaining agreement). Sources said the St. Louis Cardinals are not interested in trading a long-term piece within the division for two-plus months of pitching help.

CSNNE.com reported the Red Sox don't expect to be big players for Garza, at least not if it's going to cost two top pitching prospects from a group that includes Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Henry Owens and Anthony Ranaudo.

Two elite pitching prospects was the starting point - and the meter would keep running - when the Diamondbacks inquired about club-controlled Jeff Samardzija. Arizona general manager Kevin Towers loves his "Gunslinger" reputation and mentored Theo Epstein when the future Cubs president was just beginning his career with the San Diego Padres.

[RELATED: In the midst of trade talk, Garza pitches Cubs past Cardinals]

The Cubs will keep working the phones between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. This has been Garza's default setting throughout most of his career, trying to block out all the rumors.

"There's nothing really you can do about it," pitcher Travis Wood said. "It's going to happen, regardless of whether you want it to or not. It might not happen even if you want it. It's out of your hands and you've just got to focus on the things you can control like your next start and your work towards it.

"Absolutely, (Garza's doing that). He's been traded before, so he kind of knows how it goes and everything. He definitely is taking it day-by-day and doing everything he can."