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Cubs mean business with Garza deal

Matt Garzhard-throwing right-hander w15 games last seasfor TampBay. | AP

Matt Garza, a hard-throwing right-hander, won 15 games last season for Tampa Bay. | AP

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Updated: January 7, 2011 3:16PM

So much for rebuilding and that alleged transition year.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry might have put the Cubs back into the thick of National League Central contention in 2011 with a pending multiplayer trade for Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza that could be finalized in the next day or two.

Sources say the deal, which was first reported close by the Sun-Times early this week, is done pending physicals.

The Cubs would send top pitching prospect Chris Archer, top infield prospect Hak-Ju Lee, outfielder Brandon Guyer, catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Sam Fuld to Tampa Bay for Garza and minor-league outfielder Fernando Perez.

While the prospect price appears steep, the Cubs were able to swing the deal without including top hitting prospect Brett Jackson, as well as shortstop Starlin Castro or Andrew Cashner, who is expected to move from the bullpen to the rotation.

Garza, 27, who won 15 games last season, becomes the only pitcher on the staff with a World Series appearance, and he has as many postseason wins (two) as the rest of the staff combined (both the others belonging to recently re-acquired Kerry Wood).

Cubs officials won’t comment on the move until it’s official, but the deal likely completes the list of major acquisitions for the Cubs, who sought a first baseman (free agent Carlos Pena), reliever (free agent Wood) and starter.

Garza, whose $3.35 million 2010 salary could nearly double in arbitration this winter, doesn’t fit the space Hendry had left in his payroll budget for 2011, which suggests that ownership consent was necessary and that a trade or two could follow to shed salary.

Pitcher Tom Gorzelanny already has been rumored to be on the block for the past month.

Landing Garza is a significant response to upstart Cincinnati’s pitching-driven division title last season and division-rival Milwaukee’s recent trades for Shaun Marcum and Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.

It gives the Cubs a Ryan Dempster-Garza-Carlos Zambrano top three to their starting rotation and makes the back end suddenly look stronger with only two spots between Cashner, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Gorzelanny, Casey Coleman and Jeff Samardzija.

Garza went 15-10, 3.91, for the Rays’ AL East champ in ’10 and could see a significant boost in his numbers with the move out of the powerful AL East and into the National League.

He’s 2-1 with a 3.48 ERA in five postseason starts.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry talked with the Rays about Garza four weeks ago at the winter meetings, but early indications for landing the arbitration-eligible pitcher didn’t look promising.

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