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Matt Garza’s fate will signal Cubs’ direction

This is 2011 phoMatt GarzChicago Cubs  baseball team. This image reflects Chicago Cubs active roster as Tuesday Feb. 22

This is a 2011 photo of Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. This image reflects the Chicago Cubs active roster as of Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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Updated: January 3, 2012 10:39AM



Are the Cubs willing to trade their best pitcher, Matt Garza, this winter? That’s one of the more popular Cubs rumors making the rounds.

They are if somebody is willing to part with a lode of impressive young talent.

More likely, the Cubs, who have two more arbitration years of control over Garza, will rebuild their mostly rag-tag starting rotation around him and Ryan Dempster in 2012.

If anything, they’ll gauge the market for him near the trading deadline, when they’ll know more about just how far they are from contending again.

As the Cubs prepare for next week’s winter meetings in Dallas, where Garza is sure to get plenty of attention, it makes the powerful right-hander the most intriguing player on the roster to watch. He offers a glimpse into the new management team’s long-range plans and short-term perceptions.

‘‘I don’t want to talk about any player specifically in that context, but I will say that’s one of the greatest challenges of the job for any management team: balancing short-term interests with long-term interests and making sure they align,’’ team president Theo Epstein said. ‘‘And being honest about where you are as an organization and when your opportunity to really win comes.’’

He and general manager Jed Hoyer have stressed the Cubs’ dearth of pitching depth as a priority this offseason, and it figures to dominate their pursuits in Dallas.

‘‘You can’t take your chances very seriously as a club if you go into the season without not just five guys you can point to, but six, seven, eight guys,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘And you better know who your ninth starter is going to be because the numbers show you’re going to need him at some point during the course of the year.’’

Sources say that search includes a run at left-hander Chris Capuano, a former 18-game winner who rebounded from 2009 Tommy John surgery to go 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA and make 31 starts. He’s a guy manager Dale Sveum and anticipated new pitching coach Chris Bosio know well from Capuano’s five seasons in Milwaukee.

But what route they take with Garza — arbitration, extension, trade — likely will be the defining move/non-move of the winter.

‘‘We’ll see. We’ll be open-minded about that with all our players and see which way things go,’’ said Epstein, who admittedly has strong impressions of Garza from seeing the former Rays pitcher slap around the Red Sox for three years.

‘‘Exactly the type of guy that you like to build around.’’

NOTES: Newly signed right fielder David DeJesus, the new Wheaton resident who met with local media Wednesday, admitted his surgically repaired right hand bothered him at times during a ‘‘tough’’ 2011 season with Oakland but that it’s ‘‘100 percent’’ now. . . . Epstein said the impact of baseball’s newly approved HGH testing requirements on potential long-term commitments to power players has to be evaluated ‘‘on a case-by-case basis and doing our background work as we always have.’’



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