MILWAUKEE -- With nearly a dozen major league scouts in attendance to keep tabs on numerous Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers players, Matt Garza once again showed why he will likely be one of the most sought after commodities in baseball over the coming weeks.
Garza delivered seven strong innings, allowing only one run on eight hits, while striking out 10 and walking only one. Garza's gone on quite a run at just the right time, as far as the Cubs front office is concerned, tossing 22 innings and allowed only two runs, striking out 23 and walking five in his last three starts.
While Theo Epstein wouldn't discuss any specific players, he admitted that with where the Cubs are in the standings and the pieces that they have, they'll likely be hearing from many teams over the next four weeks.
"Obviously, there are a lot of calls this time of year," Epstein said. "We have a number of guys who are performing really well, including some guys who are under contract or under our control for years to come. It's not like we're rushing out to trade those guys. We'll see, we owe it to the organization to explore it and see if there's something a lot better going forward, we'll have to consider it."
Garza said he doesn't waste time listening to rumors that may or may not be true.
"That's not for them, it's for me, for my 24 guys in here, that's what I need to do," Garza said. "Those rumors are rumors, I've been a part of them my entire career so it's nothing new."
Garza has been traded twice before in his career, so he doesn't give a second thought to different trade scenarios that are speculated on in the media. However, that wasn't always the case.
"It was pretty awesome," Garza said of the first time he heard his name come up. "The first rumor was me for (Alfonso) Soriano to the Nationals. I was like, 'Oh, wow, a 40-40 guy? Yeah!' Now it's just, whatever. You just keep plugging away. Someone asked me if I'm sitting by my phone and I said no. No phone calls, no worries."
Dioner Navarro, who has caught Garza's last three gems, said if traded, Garza's bombastic personality would definitely be missed in the clubhouse.
"He's really loud every day," Navarro said with a smile. "He's a little bit quieter when he pitches. I think he gets in the zone the day he pitches. Other than that, we try to keep him away, but it's hard. He's gonna be Garza. He's been like that forever, we just got to deal with him."
Garza returned from a lat injury on May 21 and hadn't pitched previous to that since July 21 of last season after leaving a start early with an elbow injury. But those injuries appear to be in the past and Garza believes he's finally shaken off the rust and gotten back into the swing of things on the mound.
"I feel pretty good, mechanically, physically, mentally," Garza said. "Just kind of attacking and getting back to where I was before I left. I like where I'm at and I'm just going to keep improving and try to get a little better every time out."
With Garza delivering a dominant stretch of performances, the time to move him may be rapidly approaching. The Cubs are lining up quite well in regards to having highly desired assets. In addition to Garza, Scott Feldman has been a model of consistency on the mound, Kevin Gregg has provided some much needed stability in the closer's role and Nate Schierholtz could provide a strong left-handed bat who's proven to hit righties very well.
If Soriano can get hot over the last month and David DeJesus returns strong from a shoulder injury, the Cubs roster will only look more appealing to playoff contenders trying to add before the July 31 trade deadline.
A new kind of trade: The Cubs are likely to be heavily involved in the international free agent market that opens on July 2. With a cap on spending on international free agents implemented in the last CBA, there have been rumors that the Cubs may be looking to trade for more pool space. Just the mere possibility of doing so is new to the game, another wrinkle that was implemented this season with the new CBA.
"Maybe," Epstein said about the possibility of acquiring more space via trade. "It's not a huge priority, but we have a strategy with respect to (international free agency), we'll execute it. It doesn't necessarily require us adding pool space."
Castro's mechanics: After being held out of the lineup for the first time since 2011 on Tuesday, Starlin Castro delivered his second consecutive two-hit game. However, manager Dale Sveum still saw some bad habits he'd like cleared up.
"A little better," Sveum said. "Still a lot of movement to be able to get the bat head in that position on those fastballs."
During his recent struggles, Castro has often been late on fastballs. Sveum has pointed out that Castro's bat speed has not waned this season. However, it appears that Castro's added movement as the pitch is delivered is keeping him from getting the bat through the zone quick enough to catch up to even average fastballs.