With Webb out, Cubs turn to other options

Matt Garza is scheduled to make close to $6 million in arbitration this season. Brad Mangin/MLB Photos/Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs, who are still in the hunt for starting pitching, lost out on one more candidate when Brandon Webb agreed in principle on a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers pending a physical.

The Cubs, along with the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds, were the other teams pursuing Webb before he decided to take the Rangers' offer. The Cubs had Webb come to Chicago 10 days ago to take a physical and to allow their team doctors to analyze the pitcher's shoulder. Webb, the 2006 Cy Young winner, hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2009 after hurting his shoulder on Opening Day.

Webb's shoulder was deemed stable although some minor complications continue to exist, according to major league sources.

The free agent market has pretty well dried up as far as starting pitching goes. Carl Pavano is the top pitcher still out there with the Minnesota Twins, Rangers and Nationals interested. Pavano has at least one two-year deal on the table but is looking for a guaranteed third year, according to a major league source.

Two potential pitchers may still be available via trade. The Cubs continue to have conversations with the Tampa Bay Rays about Matt Garza. It's unclear if Tampa will try to move Garza for minor-league talent or retain him. Garza, 27, is scheduled to make close to $6 million in 2011, his second year of arbitration.

Knowing the economic woes of the Rays, it would probably work in their benefit to trade Garza, who has two years left under team control before free agency in 2013. Garza could bring up to as many as three or four solid prospects in a trade. Tampa Bay wants a future shortstop and catcher that they can project to the big leagues in the next couple of seasons.

If the Cubs and Tampa are able to come to an agreement, minor league catcher Robinson Chirinos and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee would probably be in the deal. Chirrinos hit over .300 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs in just 300 at-bats at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa in 2010. Lee hit .282 at Single-A Peoria and is considered the top defensive shortstop in the system.

The Cubs believe Lee is a major league shortstop of the future and may eventually push his way into the Cubs lineup, moving Starlin Castro over to third base if he continues to develop and Castro gets bigger and stronger as he approaches his mid-20s.

Even though the Rangers signed Webb, they may be interested in trading for Garza as are Washington and the New York Yankees.

Cleveland's Fausto Carmona has been mentioned in trade talks as well. The Cubs and Indians had talks at one time about Carmona. However, the Indians are said to be asking for teams' top two prospects just to get started in serious discussions. Carmona, 27, had a breakout season in 2007, going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA. He was 13-14 in 2010 with a 3.77 ERA after dealing with some arm problems in 2008 and 2009. Garza was 15-10 in 2010 with a 3.91 ERA.