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7/9 Matt Garza update

The Indians are among the teams seeking a starting pitcher, and are keeping an eye on Matt Garza, according to CBSSports.com and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. They had a rep among the dozen scouts at U.S. Cellular Field Monday night to watch Garza, who was impressive. The right-hander picked up the win over the White Sox, and has given up four earned runs over his last 37 innings in his last five starts to lower his ERA to 3.22. Before this stretch, he had a 6.26 ERA in five games. The Rangers, Dodgers and Red Sox also are following Garza’s outings.

Garza, who will be a free agent after this season, did acknowledge after Monday’s game that he has talked to the Cubs about a possible extension.

“[An extension] is always on the table,” Garza said. “I voiced my opinion about how I love it here. My family loves it here. It’s always something you think about. I don’t know which route they’re going to go.”

How real is an extension?

“As real as a trade,” Garza said. “Trades are just rumors like everything else. An extension talk, I’m part of, I know for a fact where it’s at. It’s always a possibility, man, 50-50.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to my decision if I want an extension, and a trade, it’s obviously [the Cubs']decision,” he said. “I like being a Cub, I want to get this team to October and win it here. Like I’ve said before, it’d be one [heck] of a party. I’m just going to get ready for every five days.”

So, what uniform is he wearing on Aug. 1?

“I’m hoping the Cubs, but I don’t even look that far,” Garza said. “What’s today, the 8th? Probably the 13th will be the next day I look at.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/8 Matt Garza rumors

Matt Garza has been rumored to be traded since Spring Training. Could the Cubs keep the right-hander and sign him to a long-term deal? CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported Monday the Cubs have talked to Garza’s agents about a possible long-term contract. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal confirmed that the Cubs and Garza have had recent talks. Rosenthal reported that signing Garza has always been one of the Cubs’ options. The team also could make him a one-year qualifying offer at the end of the season.

Garza is considered the top pitcher available on the trade market, and there is still time before the July 31 deadline for teams to make a deal with the Cubs. One scout told MLB.com that because Garza will be a free agent at year’s end, and a possible short-term rental, teams don’t want to give up top top prospects in exchange. The Cubs, obviously, are looking for top prospects.

The Rangers, Red Sox, Indians, Rockies, Giants, Padres, Nationals and Cardinals all need starting pitching, and the number of scouts has increased each time Garza pitches. Garza, who is making $10.25 million this year, will be a free agent after this season, and could demand a deal similar to what Anibal Sanchez got — five years, $80 million.

Garza will be on the mound Monday night when the Cubs face the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in a makeup game.

– Carrie Muskat

7/7 Matt Garza rumors

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Rangers were interested in Matt Garza last season, and nearly acquired him at the Trade Deadline. However, Garza had a stress reaction in his right elbow, and he didn’t pitch after July 21. The Rangers instead dealt for Ryan Dempster. The Rangers are reportedly pursuing Garza again this year. The right-hander is healthy, and will make his 10th start on Monday against the White Sox. He’s given up two earned runs over 30 innings in his last four starts.

– Carrie Muskat

7/2 Cubs deal Feldman, Clevenger to O’s

The Cubs kicked off the trading season on Tuesday, dealing pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles for right-handed pitchers Jake Arrietta and Pedro Strop plus two international signing bonus slots. The Cubs also have acquired the Astros’ No. 2 and 3 international signing bonus slots for Minor League infielder Ronald Torreyes.

Feldman (7-6, 3.46 ERA), who has been one of the Cubs most consistent starters, was scheduled to start Tuesday against the Athletics, but instead, lefty Chris Rusin will get the assignment.

Feldman most likely won’t be the only starter to be dealt before the July 31 Trade Deadline. There also has been interest in right-hander Matt Garza, scheduled to start Wednesday.

Clevenger made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster but has struggled with a strained left oblique, and was with Triple-A Iowa. A Baltimore native, the catcher was thrilled at the news, according to his agent, Joshua Kusnick, who tweeted: “Clevenger is an oriole done deal home coming!”

The Cubs will get $388,100 from the Orioles in international slot money, which may help them sign top prospect Eloy Jimenez.

– Carrie Muskat

7/2 Marmol to Dodgers

The Cubs have found Carlos Marmol a new home. The Cubs traded the embattled closer to the Dodgers for Matt Guerrier in a deal that also includes a swap of draft picks and financial considerations.

Marmol, who was designated for assignment June 25, will not become the Dodgers’ closer but provide a veteran arm in their revamped bullpen.

The Dodgers will pay roughly $500,000 of the remaining $5 million on Marmol’s contract. Guerrier has about $1.8 million remaining on the final year of a three-year, $12 million contract. Guerrier was designated for assignment on Sunday.

After the Cubs designated Marmol last week, a few teams had expressed an interest in the right-hander, who was 2-4 with a 5.86 ERA in 31 games. He did strike out 32, but also walked 21 and served up 26 hits over 27 2/3 innings.

Marmol, 30, began the season as the Cubs closer but lost the job after the first week to Kyuji Fujikawa. However, the Japanese pitcher had elbow problems and eventually required Tommy John surgery. Kevin Gregg has taken over as closer, replacing Marmol, who had replaced Gregg in that role in 2009. It’s also ironic that Gregg was with the Dodgers in Spring Training, but they released him.

– Carrie Muskat

7/1 Marmol to Dodgers?

The Cubs would not comment on a report Monday that the Dodgers are close to acquiring Carlos Marmol in a trade. ESPNChicago.com reported that the Dodgers could be close to acquiring the right-hander, who was designated for assignment last Tuesday after compiling a 2-4 record and 5.86 ERA in 31 games. Marmol is owed more than $5 million on his remaining $9.8 million salary.

Marmol began the season as the Cubs closer but lost the job in the first week to Kyuji Fujikawa. However, the Japanese pitcher had elbow problems that ultimately resulted in Tommy John surgery. Kevin Gregg, whom the Dodgers released after a solid Spring Training, was signed by the Cubs and is 13-for-14 in save situations with the Cubs.

Teams have contacted the Cubs about Marmol since he was designated for assignment. The right-hander has walked 21 and given up 26 hits over 27 2/3 innings this season.

– Carrie Muskat

6/30 Theo: 50-50 chance deal before break

Asked if he expected the Cubs to make a deal before the All-Star break, Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations said Sunday the chances are “50-50.” Matt Garza and Scott Feldman are drawing interest for teams looking for another starter, while teams also have inquired about closer Kevin Gregg, who blew his first save opportunity in 13 opportunities on Saturday.

The interest — and rumors — will continue up until the July 31 Trade Deadline.

There also have been reports that teams are inquiring about Nate Schierholtz but Epstein may be hard pressed to part with the outfielder, who has moved into the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

“He’s exceeded our expectations with the overall quality at-bats,” Epstein said of Schierholtz. “To hit him in the three-hole, he does a nice job. He can handle different kinds of pitching, give you a tough at-bat. He’s a threat to go deep if they make a mistake, runs the bases well, he’s been really reliable defensively. He’s done a nice job.”

Last year, the Cubs were active at the Trade Deadline, dealing pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, plus catcher Geovany Soto, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker.

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Cubs shopping for pitching

The Cubs aren’t finished shopping for pitching, and are reportedly pursuing free agents Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva. The Cubs lost out in their bid for Anibal Sanchez, who rejected a five year, $77 million offer and signed with the Tigers for $80 million. Now Chicago is apparently taking aim at Jackson, 29, who was reportedly seeking a three- to four-year contract after making $11 million last season with the Nationals. The Padres were among the teams believed to be in the mix for Jackson, but there were reports Wednesday that they would not offer more than a three-year deal. Jackson went 10-11 last season and compiled a 4.03 ERA in 31 starts. In his career, he’s 14-9 with a 3.95 ERA in 38 games (36 starts) against the National League Central.

The Cubs already have added free agent pitchers Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, signing both to one-year contracts. But the team wants more depth, especially if Baker and Matt Garza are not ready. Baker is coming back from Tommy John surgery and Garza has just started throwing for the first time since July 21. He was shut down then because of a right elbow injury.

On Wednesday, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network reported that the Cubs had signed Villanueva. However, a source told MLB.com that the two sides were still finalizing details and no deal was done. Villanueva, 29, made 16 starts and 22 relief appearances last season for the Blue Jays, compiling a 4.16 ERA over 125 1/3 innings.
The right-hander, who made $2.2775 million in 2012, has pitched for the Brewers and Blue Jays, making 29 starts in the last two seasons with Toronto. In his career as a starter, he is 16-22 with a 4.80 ERA in 56 games.

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Cubs & Jackson?

The Cubs’ pursuit of Anibal Sanchez was a little bit of a surprise considering the team’s approach to free agents has been to buy low. Now, there are reports that the Cubs are interested in free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson. ESPN’s Jim Bowden said the Padres refused to give Jackson a four-year contract, and it’s down to the Cubs and Rangers. Jackson is reportedly seeking $12 to $13 million per year after making $11 million last season with the Nationals.

Let’s look at the numbers. In the last four years, Jackson is 45-41 with a 3.98 ERA in 127 starts and one relief appearance. According to my MLB.com colleague T.R. Sullivan, there have been 63 Major League pitchers who have made at least 100 starts over the last four years, and Jackson has the 35th best ERA in that group. He’s 43rd with 8.99 hits per nine innings, 37th with 2.97 walks, and 34th with 7.29 strikeouts per nine.

More numbers to consider. Since Jackson joined the White Sox at the July 31, 2010, Trade Deadline, he has gone 26-22 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 74 starts (464 1/3 innings, two complete games) and averaged 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Teams have hit .264 against him. In that same span, Sanchez has gone 22-28 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 75 starts (462 2/3 innings, four complete games) and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine for the Marlins and Tigers. Teams have hit .257 against him.

The Cubs are looking for pitching. Jackson turned 29 in September; Sanchez turns 29 in February. The red flag is that Jackson has pitched for seven different teams, and six in the last five years.

The Cubs reportedly offered Sanchez $77 million over five years. Would they give Jackson four years and $50 million? Would you?

– Carrie Muskat

12/13 Cubs talk to Sanchez

The Cubs are one of the teams to make an offer to free agent pitcher Anibal Sanchez, but reports that the deal is done are not true. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network, the Cubs did discuss a five-year, $75 million deal with Sanchez. However, the Tigers are still in the mix. Sanchez, 28, would give the Cubs a more competitive rotation next season, and the team does have money to spend. However, what Sanchez has to weigh is that the Cubs are still in rebuilding mode. He began the 2012 season with the Marlins and was dealt to the Tigers in July. Sanchez finished 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA, and was 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA in the postseason. If he joined the Cubs, he’d be inserted into a rotation that includes Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, Travis Wood and newcomers Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported the Cubs and Sanchez deal was done, but sources have confirmed that’s not the case.

– Carrie Muskat

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