The contenders will know where to find Matt Garza, the most valuable trade chip held by Theo Epstein’s front office. It’s about that time for the Cubs.
The Cincinnati Reds silenced Garza, who didn’t have much to say after Tuesday’s 12-2 loss at Wrigley Field, his first time facing them since calling out Johnny Cueto last month, another night where this last-place team profiled like sellers.
It became a classic Garza moment after watching Cueto throw a ball over the head of David DeJesus: “He knows where to find my locker and definitely I’ll find his.” But it didn’t set off any fireworks this time, not with Garza giving up a career-high nine earned runs in five innings.
“I know everybody made a big deal about the whole Cueto-me thing, but that was over the day I left (Cincinnati),” Garza said. “Today it was just go out there and try to put up the best I can and give my team a chance to win. And definitely that didn’t happen.”
Now that the draft is over, the Cubs (25-37) will shift their attention to the trade deadline, looking at unloading potential short-term assets like Garza, pitcher Scott Feldman, outfielder David DeJesus and closer Kevin Gregg.
“(We’ll) assess where we are and then the needs of the other 29 teams,” Epstein said. “It’s sort of a long process to put it together. You don’t just wake up on July 31 and decide you’re going to make a trade one way or another. There’s a lot of information gathering and strategizing.
“We’re starting those internal discussions of what good fits might be and things like that, even as we watch our club play and hope that we get real hot and change our current position.”
Garza ranted at the beginning of a five-game winning streak in late May. Since then, the Cubs have lost seven of nine, falling to 12 games under .500. They’re now 7-20 against National League Central opponents, with little buzz at Clark and Addison. By the end, an announced crowd of 30,937 had disappeared, with rows and rows of empty seats throughout the ballpark.
In the second, Garza watched Todd Frazier hit a 93 mph fastball into the basket in right-center field. An inning later, Joey Votto put another fastball in the left-field bleachers. Xavier Paul’s three-run homer landed in the right-field bleachers, just above the LED board, the exclamation point to a six-run sixth inning.
Garza now has a 6.26 ERA in five starts since coming off the disabled list after an elbow injury shut him down last year and a lat injury wiped out the beginning of this season. He responded to a question about getting his feet wet again by mentioning his chemistry with catcher Welington Castillo.
“I just think I haven’t thrown to Welly,” Garza said. “That’s what spring training’s for – so he kind of gets the feel for me and I get the feel of him. I think that’s what we’re trying to do right now, just feel each other out.
“It’s tough, but being in this game for as many seasons as I have, I need to take control and I need to kind of guide him through it. I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do. It lies on my shoulders and I’m going to get ready every five days and try to make it right.”
While the Houston Astros (Mark Appel) and Colorado Rockies (Jonathan Gray) grabbed the premier power arms at the top of the draft last week, the Cubs selected University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick, opting to address the organization’s biggest need through volume in later rounds.
The trade deadline will be another opportunity. The Cubs made sure to get pitching back when they dealt Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm last summer, and could make similar demands with Garza positioned to become a free agent at season’s end.
The Cubs made one minor deal on Tuesday, acquiring reliever Henry Rodriguez from the Washington Nationals for Class-A Kane County right-hander Ian Dickson while designating pitcher Eduardo Sanchez for assignment.
“You got to be prepared for everything,” Epstein said. “If we end up going that route again this year, pitching will be a focus."