The Cubs had a simple ask of Matt Garza this year: get healthy soon, righty, and start pitching well so we can ship you out of town. You love it when a plan comes together.
The Fresno State product was on point in Thursday's victory at Milwaukee, allowing just one run over seven innings and striking out 10. It's the third straight time Garza's hit the mark, a stretch where he's yielded just two runs over 22 innings. He's a free agent after the season and very much on the block, with a bunch of contenders (mostly NL clubs) sniffing around.
A host of NL West clubs have specifically been mentioned as possible Garza landing spots; the Dodgers and Padres would be preferred for roto teams, the Rockies not so much. Just getting out of Chicago would likely be a boost for Garza, assuming he didn't land in an extreme hitters park like Coors Field. If I were shuffling starting pitchers right this second, I'd probably have Garza in the $15-16 range. If the Padres won the lottery, I'd go a buck or two higher.
Unrelated to anything, does anyone else get a chuckle out of Garza's facial hair? It's like he's the stunt double for the King of Clubs. It's the little things.
• Andrew Cashner is a popular add in Friday's Yahoo world, looking ahead to a Saturday start at Miami. Cashner's road numbers are jagged through six starts (4.39/1.39), but a turn at the Fish Tank is usually favorable for us.
Cashner's changed his pitching approach in 2013, working more to contact and eschewing the strikeout. You'll notice his K/9 has dropped from 10.10 to 6.15, a significant deflation. That established, he's also cut his walks by over 30 percent, he's inducing ground balls 52 percent of the time, and he's had a major reduction in homers allowed. If this new style keeps him in games longer (and results in less wear-and-tear long term), I'll sign off.
Cashner is still good to grab in 61 percent of Yahoo! leagues. You probably won't want to risk him at Boston next week, but a Petco start against Colorado comes after that.
• The Red Sox handed their bullpen keys to Koji Uehara a week ago and it looks like he's up to the task. The Japanese veteran has a couple of saves over the last two days, striking out four of the six men he's faced. It's encouraging to see Uehara work in back-to-back days (that's been an issue at times, given that he's 38) and it's also notable to see Junichi Tazawa working strictly as a set-up man. The Red Sox might be inclined to keep Uehara in the ninth inning even if they're able to fix whatever ails Andrew Bailey.
• The Mets are usually a punchline when we talk about them in 2013 (save for guys like Wright and Harvey), but let's take a moment to appreciate closer Bobby Parnell. The Mets have finally started to funnel a bunch of save chances his way (13 since the beginning of May) and Parnell has converted 12 of them, in addition to five relief wins. His Thursday handshake came with a Colorado bow at the top - Michael Cuddyer inexplicably tried to turn a routine single into a double and was thrown out easily. But at the end of the day, they don't ask how, they ask how many?
Parnell's strikeout rate (7.9/9) is good enough to get by, given that he hardly walks anyone and carries a 56-percent ground ball rate. Forget the long ball - he hasn't allowed one since last August. There are dozens of problems and foundational cracks with the Mets, but they seem set in the ninth inning for a while (assuming they don't want to play the flip game and make Parnell available for trade). Parnell is still available in about a quarter of Yahoo! leagues, oddly.
Marlon Byrd was the hero in the Coors Field makeup, hitting a game-flipping homer in the eighth and throwing out Cuddyer in the ninth. Whatever Byrd's having for breakfast these days, pour us a bowl of it, too. The 35-year-old journeyman has 11 homers and 28 RBIs since May 1, turning himself into New York's second-best positional player. There might be a Wiggy in his future.
Speed Round: No one can say if Matt Kemp's power is ever going to show up in full force this year, but maybe he'll make it up to you with his legs. Kemp stole a couple of bags in Thursday's win over Philadelphia, along with two hits and two runs. He's 9-for-9 on the bases this year. Kemp also struck out twice, giving him 62 whiffs over 199 at-bats . . . Zack Greinke scored his fifth victory in LA's win, despite 12 hits, four runs and two homers allowed. The Greinke apologists probably have a ready-made excuse, as they normally do. The schedule gets messy going forward, with dates at Colorado and Arizona approaching . . . Maybe it's not a big deal when someone shuts out the punchless Yankees these days, but nonetheless we'll doff the cap for Derek Holland's matinee in The Bronx (CG, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K). Holland needed just 92 pitches in the gem. He returns home next week, up against Felix Hernandez . . . If you want to end a ballgame, do what Jim Leyland often does: turn to Phil Coke (0-5, 6.56/1.46). The Angels appreciated that gesture Thursday afternoon. I'll be shocked if the Tigers don't aggressively pursue relievers in the trade market . . . It's been a pitch-to-contact story for Samuel Denudo, but you appreciate a 3.32 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over seven starts. The Tigers knocked him around in his first start but the next six were useful. Maybe he can be trusted at home against the Yanks next week . . . The Mariners promoted Brad Miller (to play shortstop) and Dustin Ackley (to play the outfield) this week. It looks like Nick Franklin will be sticking at second base . . . Juan Francisco is doing Juan Francisco things in Milwaukee: four homers, 17 strikeouts, .196 average over 19 games. Meanwhile, Corey Hart (knee) is expected to miss the rest of the season. Hart and Mark Teixeira are good examples of why you have to be careful with what you expect from players off long-term injuries.