Who is pursuing Chicago Cubs right-hander Matt Garza ahead of the July 31 trade deadline?
The question should be, who isn't pursuing Garza?
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers are all interested in the 29-year-old.
While Heyman noted that the Boston Red Sox were mainly interested in bullpen help at the moment, Anthony Witrado of Sporting News wrote:
The Boston Red Sox like Garza and know he can handle pitching in the thick American League East, as he was with the Tampa Bay Rays for three years before being traded to Chicago. Boston has sent top scout and former Cubs assistant to the GM Gary Hughes to follow the Cubs.
Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com noted:
In addition, several teams sent scouts to watch Garza pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers last Thursday, as Carrie Muskat of Cubs.com noted:
Garza's numbers this year (3.83 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 47 strikeouts in 49.1 innings) are relatively in line with his career averages (3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 912 strikeouts in 1,076.1 innings). What you see is what you get with the 2008 ALCS MVP.
Of course, Garza's injury history is a bit worrisome. He missed the last 2 1/2 months of 2012 with a stress reaction in his throwing elbow. In February, he was diagnosed with a lat strain, which kept him out until May. His first start this season came on May 21.
On top of that, Garza elected to merely rehab his elbow in the winter instead of having surgery. That could come back to bite him down the road this season.
And, as Paul Swydan of FanGraphs.com noted, while Garza's last three starts have been spectacular (22 innings, two runs, 23 strikeouts), two of those starts have come against the anemic offenses of the New York Mets and Houston Astros. Plus, Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez weren't in the lineup when he faced the Brewers last Thursday.
If teams are looking for a solid starter, Garza can certainly be that, but you get the feeling—with all the competition for Garza's services—that the winning bidder will end up overpaying for the right-hander.
Of the teams who have either been linked to Garza or scouted him, the Blue Jays (ranked 28th in starters' ERA, per ESPN.com), Orioles (27th), Padres (25th) and Giants (24th) appear to be in the worst shape when it comes to starting pitching.
What's interesting about the Giants is that they've rarely had this problem. Even when they surprised people by winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012, they mainly got by with their pitching, defense and timely hitting. If the season were to end today, it would be the first time since the 2004 campaign that they ranked better in runs than team ERA. That could see the Giants pursue pitching a bit more heartily this season leading up to the trade deadline.
One thing's for sure: the Cubs figure to get a grand return for Garza before the deadline.