Cubs

Which team has the best package to offer for Garza?

627730.png

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.

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season. 

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Much has been made about Wednesday night's brawl between the Marlins and Braves, which started when Braves young star Ronald Acuna was nailed in the elbow with a 99 mph fastball from Jose Urena. The strangest part of the whole situation was that it seemed like Urena was unprovoked by Acuna or any of the Braves players prior to plunking the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.  

The ever wise Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was asked about the incident prior to Thursday's game, making it clear he felt plays like these needed to leave the game entirely. 

It was announced Thursday afternoon that Urena would be suspended just 6 games for intentionally throwing Acuna, which means the Marlins starter will likely only miss one game for trying to hurt Acuna. The good news is that Acuna did not sustain any serious injuries, but Joe Maddon is right there is no reason for people to be hurling nearly triple-digit fastballs at players. Whether provoked or not, intentionally throwing at players is something that needs to be phased out of the game, and its safe to assume Maddon would agree.