Timing of Garza injury sunk chance of deal

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs were dealt a serious setback when pitcher Matt Garza came out of a July 22 start complaining of cramps in his upper arm.

Garza was the best trading chip the Cubs had to offer at the deadline, with the Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds all contemplating offers for Garza before his injury.

The Cubs hoped to get back at least three upper-level prospects that they could project in 2014 and beyond. Toronto had at least three pitchers at Single-A Lansing that the Cubs like and scouted on several times.

“A healthy Matt Garza would have been a very sought-after player at this deadline,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Wednesday. “You never want to see your guys get hurt, but the timing was bad because we did not get a chance to fully explore that opportunity.”

The Cubs tried earlier this year to sign Garza to a long-term contract without getting close to an agreement. Garza is seeking a contract in the neighborhood of a five-year, $90 million deal, according to industry sources. Garza has one more year under team control until possible free agency in 2014.

The Rangers and Blue Jays had scouts watching Garza’s side session on Monday and were not impressed, according to major league sources.

“When buying teams’ last data point is seeing a guy walk off a mound holding his elbow, it is not the type of thing they want to act upon,” Epstein said.

The Cubs may now decide to wait until the offseason to take offers for Garza since making waiver deals this time of year is tricky at best in getting maximum talent in return for top players.

“We just did not get the opportunity to fully explore the market for him,” Epstein said. “I am not saying we would have traded him.”

Manager Dale Sveum is targeting Garza to return to the rotation on Tuesday against the San Diego Padres.