- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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The Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays remain the front-runners for a trade with Chicago, according to industry sources. The Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants have also expressed strong interest in the pitcher.
Garza pitched 6.2 innings Saturday, giving up 10 hits but only two runs. Garza, 29, won his sixth game of the season despite not having his best command against the St. Louis Cardinals in a 6-4 Cubs win.
"He is extremely impressive," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Tonight, he was missing by a half a ball, and there were huge pitches in the game that cost him [extra] pitches, too. His last five or six starts have been extremely impressive."
The Cubs will have a different schedule for Garza if he is not traded during the All-Star break. The plan is for him to be passed up next weekend when play resumes for Chicago against the Colorado Rockies in Denver. The way it stands now, Garza will have eight days between starts. His next scheduled outing will be in Phoenix on July 22 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. If for some reason he has not been traded by then, his last start before the non-waiver trading deadline passes will be in San Francisco on July 27.
"I know exactly what is going to happen," Garza said after his fifth straight quality start. "I am going to come in tomorrow and get my day-after workout. I am going to enjoy the All-Star break and see if I can catch that flight on Thursday or Friday to Denver."
On Friday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein admitted that Garza's situation is still up in the air.
"He is throwing the ball extremely well, and he is very healthy," Epstein said. "There are teams out there looking for pitching that are going to call and try and acquire him. He is helping us win games right now, and there is a chance to possibly retain him beyond this year. We will just balance it all out and do what is best for the organization."
After his last start against the Chicago White Sox on July 8, Garza said negotiations for an extension were ongoing between the Cubs and his agent. Garza called the final outcome of his situation 50-50 as to whether he would be traded or sign an extension. Garza did not have much to add on the contract front after his Saturday start.
"Yeah, you get caught up in it," said Garza, who has been traded twice in his career. "I have been through it so much that I am just oblivious to it until something happens. It is stressful, but I have a great outlook. I get to pitch every five days, so [I] keep looking forward to [that]."
Texas and Toronto were the main suitors for Garza in July 2012 before he injured his elbow and missed the rest of the season. The two clubs have had numerous evaluators watching Garza over his past three starts. Texas has had four scouts watching overall. When that type of evaluation is involved, general managers are carefully looking at the reports as a final part of the process. The Cubs will be looking for pitching and run-producer prospects in return for Garza. The Rangers' Mike Olt would most likely be a part of any deal if Chicago and Texas agree on a trade. The 25-year-old Olt is a power-hitting third baseman and outfielder.
Garza can petition for free agency in November. He has a 63-62 lifetime record with a 3.79 ERA.