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Garza could set up Cubs for 2014

Cubs manager Dale Sveum compared Matt Garza’s ability thpower pitchers Roger Clemens Curt Schilling. | Gene J. Puskar~AP

Cubs manager Dale Sveum compared Matt Garza’s ability to that of power pitchers Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling. | Gene J. Puskar~AP

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Updated: June 28, 2013 6:32AM



CINCINNATI — Some evaluators believe that either of the two college pitchers the Cubs are targeting with the No. 2 draft pick could be in a major-league rotation next season.

But what if the Cubs could add a second impact starting pitcher in the next few months, filling out a 2014 rotation that already figures to have Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson?

What would that do to the Cubs’ rebuilding timeline? To their projections for next season?

The belief in the Cubs’ clubhouse seems to be that it would make the team a threat in the National League a lot quicker than it seems possible.

That’s the case for pursuing a contract extension with Matt Garza instead of prospects for him at the trade deadline.

“If you’re any major-league team, who wouldn’t want to solidify their starting rotation with a guy like Matt Garza?” pitching coach Bosio said. “Period.”

The power pitcher manager Dale Sveum compared in ability to Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling before the Cubs’ 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds makes his second start Sunday after being sidelined by two injuries since July.

After only five innings in his debut Tuesday, he’s already the Cubs’ most valuable trading commodity, according to scouts in Cincinnati planning to watch.

But, Samardzija said, “If you’re not going to sign Garza back, what do you replace him with? There aren’t that many [comparable] options out there.”

Garza’s not only the best pitcher on the team, but he has yet to turn 30, is one of the most popular, respected teammates in the clubhouse and might be the most competitive pitcher on the staff.

“Those are the things that you’re looking for in any organization,” said Bosio, who added that Garza has improved his command since the start of last year. “I’d like to see him around here for a long time.”

Samardzija said knowing what the Cubs have in Garza is key.

“You hear all the time about trades where you get a different guy than what you expected,” Samardzija said. “I can only speak from a player’s standpoint, but what more do you want? Everybody wants power arms. With knowing what you have with Garza, it’s a no-brainer to me.”

Garza, a pending free agent, ­negotiated with the Cubs before last season. John Danks’ five-year, $65 million deal with the White Sox was considered the comparison point.

Talks didn’t get far before Matt Cain — represented by the same agency as Garza — changed the landscape with a six-year, $127.5 million extension with the San Francisco Giants just before that season started.

By July, the Cubs were close to a deal to send Garza to the Texas Rangers for prospects when a stress reaction in his elbow ended his season.

The issues going forward involve the elbow and Garza’s willingness to give more on the terms. There’s no immediate plan to resume talks. If anything, Garza could be a candidate for a free-agent “qualifying offer” if he isn’t traded, putting him in position to stay for another year.

But the Cubs have created just enough cost certainty with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo locked up, and just enough salary coming off the books with Carlos Marmol ($9.8 million) this year and Alfonso Soriano ($18 million) next year, to consider investing in an impact pitcher.

“The sooner the better, I’d say,” Samardzija said.



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