Matt Garza isn’t someone the Texas Rangers simply acquired on a whim because he was considered the best available pitcher in this summer’s trade market.
The trade that was finally struck Monday marks only the Rangers’ latest attempt at the right-hander. They tried before the 2011 season when he was with Tampa Bay and again last July before he was injured while pitching for Chicago.
The third time was the charm.
Garza likely will make his Rangers debut Wednesday as their starting pitcher after he was acquired from the Cubs for three prospects and one or two players to be named later.
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He was scratched from his start Monday at Arizona, a dead giveaway that a deal had been reached for a pitcher whom the Rangers believe is battle-tested and on quite a roll.
“We’d gone down the path of pursuing him in the past and this time got it done,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He’s an extremely talented pitcher that’s had success in the toughest division and on the biggest stages who is throwing the ball as well as anybody right now.”
The Rangers sent third baseman Mike Olt and right-handers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards to the Cubs, who could get two additional players. One of the players in the pool from which Chicago will select is right-hander Neil Ramirez, who was part of a proposal that fell apart Friday afternoon because of some concerns about his shoulder.
The clubs never stopped talking.
“We were close on Friday, and the deal is a little bit different,” Daniels said. “There was still some of the same players, but not the exact same package that got close.
“I think there was a motivation on both sides to get it done, our side to get Garza. They’d scouted our system and really liked some of our players. Ultimately, we got it done.”
Garza was scheduled to arrive in town Monday night and work out Tuesday at Rangers Ballpark. Alexi Ogando will come off the disabled list to face the Yankees, Garza will slot in Wednesday, and Derek Holland will be pushed back to Thursday.
The Rangers had been planning to start either Grimm or Ross Wolf before acquiring Garza. That’s quite an upgrade.
Garza, who hasn’t pitched since before the All-Star break, was 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 starts for the Cubs and has won a career-best five straight starts. He is 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA since June 16, holding opponents to a .210 batting average.
He opened the season on the disabled list because of a strained left lat muscle suffered early in spring training. Garza suffered a stress reaction in his elbow last July and missed the rest of the season, but the Rangers are willing to take on the risk for a pitcher who has performed well (2-1, 3.48 ERA) in the postseason.
“I remember facing him in the playoffs when he was with Tampa and him just bringing it, coming right after you,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “It’s never fun at-bats because he had a lot of weapons, and in the back of your mind you knew this guy can be a little bit crazy and let one go. I can’t wait for him to get here.”
The Rangers aren’t done looking for roster help. They continue to seek a right-handed bat and are looking at White Sox outfielder Alex Rios and Seattle designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
The offense has been mired in a funk much of the season, which is related to the players they lost after last season. The Rangers are also facing the possibility of losing their top run-producer, Nelson Cruz, to a suspension for his ties to the Biogenesis of America scandal.
Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, accepted a suspension for the rest of this season for his part in the clinic that allegedly supplied performance-enhancing drugs.
Cruz is a free agent in the off-season and could elect to serve a suspension this season to improve his value for potential suitors.
“I don’t even want to jump to conclusions that’s going to happen,” Daniels said. “I’m hopeful it doesn’t. I really don’t have a feel for it.”