Being tested again in the AL West, the Texas Rangers on Monday acquired starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs.
A rotation wracked with injuries – Yu Darvish started Monday for the first time in more than two weeks, Alexi Ogando is scheduled for Tuesday after seven weeks out – forced an aggressive play for Garza, perhaps the best available starter at the trading deadline. The Rangers and Cubs had been working through the trade for about a week, had the negotiations stall, then finally struck a deal Monday.
Garza was to fly on Monday to Dallas from Phoenix, where the Cubs were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. Garza was supposed to start that game, but was scratched. He is tentatively scheduled to make his first start for the Rangers on Wednesday night against the New York Yankees.
The rebuilding Cubs, who traded for Garza 2½ years ago, in return were to receive right-hander Justin Grimm, Triple-A third baseman Mike Olt, A-ball right-hander C.J. Edwards and either one or two players to be named. By Sept. 1, the Cubs will choose between one high-end prospect and two lesser ones.
Soon enough, the Rangers could have a rotation of Darvish, Derek Holland, Garza, Ogando and Colby Lewis, who is recovering from elbow surgery. Matt Harrison, who had back surgery, could return in August.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels called Garza, "One of the better big-game pitchers in the game today, as hot as anybody," and observed his addition would bring the Rangers, “As strong a staff as arguably we’ve ever had."
The Rangers paid, he granted, "A pretty steep price."
Grimm, 24, has been in the Rangers’ rotation since early April. After a strong start, he has been hit hard and leaves with a 7-7 record and 6.37 ERA. Olt, 24, is a well-regarded prospect who has not hit well in his first season at Triple-A. Edwards, 21, has 122 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings.
"The Cubs did pretty well," Daniels said.
Garza, who was 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 starts this season for the Cubs, likely would have been traded last summer, but sustained a stress fracture in his pitching elbow. He returned from that injury in spring, only to suffer a latissimus strain that forced him to sit out the first seven weeks of 2013.
The recent injury history made some clubs reluctant to meet the asking price from the Cubs, who sought young players who would fit into their long-term rebuilding plan. Also, Garza can be a free agent at the end of the season.
Because of uncertainties in their rotation, the Rangers were perhaps more willing to take on those risks. Former ace Lewis appears closer to returning, Neftali Feliz is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Harrison, the club’s No. 1 or No. 2 starter at the beginning of the season, hopes to pitch again this season. Rookies Grimm and Nick Tepesch, used to fill some of those gaps, missed starts recently because of injuries.
The Rangers had nine different pitchers start games in the first half, and only Derek Holland made every scheduled start. In spite of a rotation that rates just above the league average in ERA, the Rangers opened the second half with the third-best record in the AL, two games behind the Oakland Athletics in the West, before being swept over the weekend by the Baltimore Orioles.
Of some interest to the Rangers, perhaps, Garza has a 2.70ERA over 40 career innings against the A’s. He also was 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA inhis previous six starts for the Cubs, dating to June 16.
The Los Angeles Dodgers (Ricky Nolasco, from the Miami Marlins), Baltimore Orioles (Scott Feldman, also from the Cubs) and now the Rangers have made early plays for starting pitching leading to the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
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