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7/25 Soriano headed to Yankees

Alfonso Soriano is apparently headed back to the Yankees, where he began his Major League career. Soriano was in the Cubs’ starting lineup on Thursday for the series finale against the Diamondbacks, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called manager Dale Sveum and asked him to pull the 37-year-old outfielder, saying a deal was “99 percent” completed.

Major League Baseball has to review the financial terms of the deal, and an official announcement may not come until Friday.

The Yankees were 6 1/2 games back in the American League East. Can Soriano help the Yankees?

“He’s going to a place that is obviously one of the better stadiums, and he’s been there before and has performed in that atmosphere before,” Sveum said. “Obviously, they’ve had a lot of injuries, and he’s the guy who can fill that void as [designated hitter] and in left field.”

Soriano has hit 10 home runs in his last 21 games, and was batting .286 in that stretch with six doubles, 21 RBIs and a 1.044 OPS, dating to June 28. He has homered in five of his last 14 games, and ranks seventh among active players in career home runs with 389.

– Carrie Muskat

7/25 Schierholtz, DeJesus wait

Cubs outfielders Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus are both well aware the Trade Deadline is one week away. Any team looking for a left-handed bat and a solid defensive outfielder would be interested in Schierholtz, who was batting .313 with runners in scoring position this season. A few teams have followed Schierholtz, including the Pirates.

“It’s out of our control what happens,” Schierholtz said after Wednesday’s extra inning win over the Diamondbacks in which he had his first five RBIs game. “I love being a Cub, and hope to stay here. You never know what will happen in the next week. All we can do is go out there and focus on trying to win games.”

DeJesus’ name also has been mentioned in trade rumors, and Theo Epstein did take time to talk to the outfielder, but not about a possible move. Instead, Epstein wanted to thank DeJesus, and tell him how much they appreciate his mentorship of the younger players. DeJesus showed that during his rehab stint with the Rookie League players, many of whom are teenagers.

“He’s a really good baseball player, lived up to his contract, he’s a left-handed bat who has the exact approach we’re trying to teach in this organization,” Epstein said. “There’s a lot of value to having him here. That said, will we make him untouchable? No — no one’s untouchable. We’ll sit and weigh out the options and what’s best for the Cubs.”

DeJesus, activated from the DL on Wednesday, was prepared.

“My name’s been in the rumors before,” he said. “It’s nothing new. You’ve just got to be professional and play the game and see what happens from there.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/23 Alfonso Soriano update

Theo Epstein planned to meet with Alfonso Soriano, who was caught off guard by reports that the Cubs and Yankees were close to completing a deal which would send the 37-year-old outfielder back to the team he broke in with.

“I saw the news and got surprised,” Soriano said Tuesday. “My agent told me the Yankees just called but it’s nothing serious and it’s nothing close. When I saw it on TV, I got a little surprised. I didn’t know it was coming — they put a lot of pressure on me, because a lot of friends called me and family when they saw the rumor on TV. my agent and me, we have the control. We talked, and I think if something happens, I want to be the first one to know.”

Epstein and Jed Hoyer were in Arizona on Tuesday and were going to talk to Soriano about his options. The Yankees aren’t the only team that has inquired about Soriano, Epstein said.

“They’re not the first team to call,” Epstein said. “They’re the first team to show up in the paper in their home city right away.”

Soriano has a no-trade clause. Would he consider playing for the Yankees again?

“I just focus, play baseball, play the game today,” he said. “If it happens, if I’m getting closer, I’ll think about it. Now, there’s nothing there. If the president and the GM don’t call my agent, it’s because nothing happened, nothing’s close. If it gets close, I want time to think about it. Now, there’s nothing to think about.”

It would be a homecoming for Soriano, who broke into the U.S. Major Leagues with the Yankees in 1999.

“That’s my first organization, and I enjoyed my time with the Yankees,” he said. “They have a very good team. They are the Yankees. They always make the playoffs, no matter what team they have, no matter what pitching they’ve got. They always find a way. It’s one of the best organizations in baseball.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/19 Matt Garza en route to Denver

Matt Garza tweeted Friday morning that he was headed to Denver to join the Cubs, who open a three-game series there. How long will he stay? According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs and Rangers are close to a deal. Among the names discussed are Triple-A third baseman Mike Olt and Class A right-hander C.J. Edwards. Edwards, 21, is 8-2 with a 1.83 ERA at Class A Hickory with 122 strikeouts and 34 walks. Rosenthal reports the Cubs will receive a strong package of prospects for Garza, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

– Carrie Muskat

7/18 Matt Garza rumors

Will Matt Garza start Monday for the Cubs against the Diamondbacks? According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, trade talks have intensified regarding Garza, considered the top starting pitcher available on the market. Rosenthal and Morosi report the Rangers are the “most motivated” of any team in discussions with the Cubs regarding Garza. Texas currently has five starting pitchers on the disabled list (Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch and Colby Lewis). According to Rosenthal/Morosi, the Rangers tried to acquire Garza in 2011 from Tampa Bay but the Cubs put together the better package at that time.

The Indians, Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers, Red Sox and Diamondbacks also have expressed interest in Garza, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

The Cubs traveled Thursday to Denver, where they will open a three-game series on Friday against the Rockies.

– Carrie Muskat

7/14 Matt Garza rumors – UPDATED

CBSSports.com’s and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Sunday that Matt Garza was told he will likely be traded after the Cubs were unable to reach agreement on an extension. Heyman said there was a “difference of opinion” over the average annual value of the contract. Heyman said the Rangers, Indians, Red Sox and Cardinals are interested in Garza.

When Chicago media asked Garza about the report after Sunday’s game, he said: “I haven’t heard anything like that.”

Garza pitched Saturday night, and the Rangers had two scouts at Wrigley to watch, while the Tigers, Orioles, Pirates and Blue Jays also had representatives present. Others were probably watching on TV. In his last five starts, Garza is 5-0 with a 1.47 ERA and 33 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings. All five have been quality starts and Saturday was the first time he didn’t go at least seven innings.

– Carrie Muskat

7/13 Matt Garza update

Matt Garza started on Saturday night for the Cubs in the third game of their four-game series against the Cardinals. Would this be his last start in a Cubs uniform? The Rangers had two scouts at Wrigley Field to watch Garza, while the Tigers, Orioles, Pirates and Blue Jays also had representatives on hand.

How has Garza dealt with the trade rumors?

“He’s handled it great,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before Saturday’s game. “Obviously, he went through this last year at the same time when his name was all aaround. It goes unsaid how he’s handled it. He’s pitched in as good a five-game stretch as he has in his whole career. He’s obviously handled it extremely well.”

Garza has tossed at least seven innings and given up one or no earned runs in five straight starts dating to June 16.

– Carrie Muskat

7/12 Cubs’ Theo: There’s a lot of chatter

With the Trade Deadline on July 31, Theo Epstein is getting plenty of phone calls from teams interested in Cubs players. Matt Garza is high on some team’s lists, as well as relievers Kevin Gregg and James Russell and outfielder Nate Schierholtz.

Garza is considered the best starting pitcher on the market.

“Obviously, he’s throwing extremely well and he’s very healthy and there are teams out there looking for pitching who are going to call and try to acquire him,” Epstein said Friday. “For us, he’s helping us win games now, there’s a chance to possibly retain him beyond this year, so we’ll just balance all that out and do what’s best for the organization.”

It is a busy time of the season.

“There’s a lot of chatter going on right now,” said Epstein, president of baseball operations. “I wouldn’t say anything major is imminent. There’s a lot of talk, and we’ll continue to stay abreast with what other teams are trying to do as their situation changes.”

This is the second year the Cubs have been sellers. That’s not a position Epstein wants to be in.

“We wanted to be buyers this year,” he said. “With a few breaks, this year, we could’ve been in a much different situation. If some one-run games early change, and different bullpen situations [it could've been different]. The goal every year is to be in a position where you’re looking to add and have a strong pennant push.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/11 Scouts eye Garza & others

Matt Garza’s name may be the one most often mentioned in trade rumors, but scouts are very much interested in Cubs relievers Kevin Gregg and James Russell and outfielder Nate Schierholtz. Garza is the top starting pitcher on the market but the Cubs are demanding top prospects in return. Gregg is 15-for-17 in save situations since taking over the closer’s duties. He was released by the Dodgers at the end of Spring Training because they didn’t have a roster spot. Russell is the only left in the Cubs’ ‘pen now. Schierholtz has value against right-handed pitchers and has been the most consistent with runners in scoring position.

– Carrie Muskat

7/10 Cubs prepared for moves

A year ago at the Trade Deadline, the Cubs dealt two of their starters, lost another to injury, and then shut down another in early September. They had to scramble to fill in the gaps. This year, the Cubs have already traded one starter — Scott Feldman — and Matt Garza could also change uniforms by the July 31 deadline. But this year, the Cubs feel they’re better prepared to handle the moves.

“There’s no question the pitching staff we ran out there in September [2012] was short,” GM Jed Hoyer said Wednesday. “I think we feel a lot better about that. We have more depth in the Minor Leagues, more depth on the Major League roster. It was hard to watch [last year]. … Shutting down [Jeff] Samardzija was incredibly hard because we didn’t have anyone to fill in for him.”

The Cubs expect Scott Baker, who has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, to be ready in about a month. Jake Arrieta, acquired from the Orioles in the Feldman deal, also could start. Plus, they already have Carlos Villanueva, who has gone from the rotation to the ‘pen and back to the rotation.

Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley, who both made their Major League debuts last season, also have another year of experience.

“There’s obviously no question we’re much more equipped than last year,” manager Dale Sveum said.

Garza is the prime pitcher on the trade market, and Hoyer acknowledged that he has received a lot of interest.

“There’s obviously a lot of incoming phone calls,” Hoyer said. “There’s a lot about Matt, obviously, but a lot about other players on the team, too. I think in general in the game, phone traffic has picked up. I feel there’s a lot of interest in our players. The team is playing well, and a lot of our individual players are playing well. I think that’s a big part of it.”

Scouts also are keeping an eye on closer Kevin Gregg and outfielder Nate Schierholtz.

– Carrie Muskat

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