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matt garza cubsIt should come as no surprise, given the tenor of rumors over the past week (including many that placed near-certain odds on the Cubs dealing Matt Garza before his next start no Monday), that the Cubs are reportedly close to finalizing a deal involving the best pitcher on the market.

One of those earlier reports came from Buster Olney, who placed it at 80/20 that the Cubs would deal Garza not only before his next start, but by Friday. As in tomorrow.

And now Olney hears the Cubs might be making good on that timeline, asking teams for “best and final” offers. That comes from other team sources, who also believe Garza will be dealt before his scheduled start on Monday.

It’s a predictable, but laudable, approach by the Cubs’ front office in their efforts to maximize the return on Garza. While it might not be feasible to replicate in the prospect world, I wonder if the Cubs could even implement a proxy of the blind bidding system we’ve seen employed occasionally on the international free agent stage and frequently in the Japanese posting system – i.e., instead of taking the offers around and saying, “can you beat this? can you beat this?,” the Cubs simply say, “this is it: we’re accept the best offer we get today – make it a damn good one.” The theory behind the system is that it forces eager teams to bid against themselves, rather than merely having to top the erstwhile highest offer. If teams know that their “best and final” offer is going to be then taken around to other teams, they might still hold back on the offer, and the whole “best and final” thing is neutered.

Given the timing of the request for best and final offers, I have to believe the Cubs were indeed waiting for the Competitive Balance Lottery to pass to see if any of the interested teams would be able to supplement their offers with an extra draft pick. That doesn’t mean the Cubs will land a pick as a piece of the eventual deal, obviously, but the Cubs might as well see what’s out there in that regard.

Don’t assume that we’re going to hear a resolution on this ASAP, though. The call for best and final could be over the next few days, or it could have already been done, and the Cubs will want some time to mull it over. And it’s not like they have to accept one of the offers right now.

Apropos of … something? … nothing? … Olney followed up his “best and final” tweet with a couple points exclusively about the Rangers. Specifically, Olney noted that the Rangers are involved in these talks, and, if the Cubs are looking for pitching prospects, the Rangers can accommodate even without top young pitcher Martin Perez. Olney names C.J. Edwards and Luke Jackson as possibilities. Each is a quality arm still in the lower levels of the minors, and each is a fringe top 100 prospect (if you looked at the right list).

UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal suggests Olney’s tweets were apropos of something, saying “Sources: #Rangers “most motivated” on Garza, have had extensive talks with #Cubs.” He adds that a full story is coming. Dun dun dun …

UPDATE 2 (3:25pm CT): I should clarify something that a few of you discerning types have pointed out in the comments: it’s entirely possible (plausible, even?) that the Cubs already have an acceptable offer in hand from at least one team, and they’ve asked for best and final from everyone else, because they’re otherwise ready to pull the trigger. That gets away a bit from the blind bidding system (and its advantages), but seems more likely how these things play out.

UPDATE 3 (3:30pm CT): Jeff Passan says he hears that if Garza doesn’t go to the Rangers, the most likely other destinations are the Cardinals, the Red Sox, the Diamondbacks, and the Dodgers.

UPDATE 4 (3:37pm CT): Rosenthal’s piece (together with Jon Morosi) is up. It’s basically a more robust version of his tweet: the Cubs and Rangers have had extensive discussions, but other teams remain involved. The Rangers are the most “motivated” to get a deal done, but Rosenthal mentions the Dodgers, specifically, as another team involved. The Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Indians, and Cardinals have been involved, according to Rosenthal’s sources, but they haven’t wanted to meet the asking price for a rental.

UPDATE 5 (6:35pm CT): Gordon Edes reports that Clay Buchholz suffered a setback in his recovering from ongoing shoulder issues (bursitis) today. He was supposed to throw a bullpen session today, but it was scratched, and he’s due for reevaluation tomorrow. There has been some thinking that the Red Sox’s interest in picking up a pitcher was tempered by their confidence that Buchholz could return soon. If that’s no longer the case, will they become more eager to make a deal for, say, Garza? There is some logic there, but it all depends on Buchholz’s prognosis and the Red Sox’s willingness to roll the dice. They’re a good trading partner for the Cubs for a number of reasons (deep farm system, great upper-level arms, familiarity with the system).

UPDATE 6 (8:00pm CT): Rosenthal says one official in the Cubs/Rangers talks believes a deal is “getting closer,” and that prospects from various levels are involved (including “possibly” Mike Olt). In some ways, this doesn’t quite square with a “best and final” type scheme. Do the Rangers have the best offer, but it’s still not quite enough? Are the Cubs actively working with the Rangers to see if they’ll top the other “best” offer out there? I don’t pretend to have the answers here. We know only that the Cubs are extensively discussing a Garza deal, and the Rangers are clearly one of the primary suitors.

UPDATE 7 (8:28pm CT): Dave Kaplan spoke to a scouting friend who says the offers the Cubs are getting are “very solid,” and that a deal will likely be done this weekend. So, still kind of the same general message.

UPDATE 8 (8:37pm CT): Kaplan adds that the scout – presumably the same one – says the Cubs hold all of the cards, and Garza is the only high-level starter available out there. Kaplan also confirmed that final offers are rolling in from a handful of teams.

UPDATE 9 (9:05pm CT): The Rosenthal/Morosi piece has been updated slightly to include mention of Rangers pitching prospect C.J. Edwards as possibly part of the deal. These guys tend not to pull random A-ball pitchers out of their hat. In other words, if they’re naming Edwards as possibly being part of a deal, then he’s at least been discussed.

UPDATE 10 (9:18pm CT): Kaplan’s scout source is really pushing the Cubs’ strength, saying that the Rangers cannot afford to not acquire Garza. That seems to be overstating things a bit, but obviously they do have a clear need.

UPDATE 11 (9:54pm CT): Sahadev suggests on Twitter that the names we’re hearing from Texas – i.e. Olt, Edwards and Jackson are indeed in play, but the Cubs are hoping for more. Don’t assume that the Cubs *definitely* have an offer on the table for those three. It’s only safe to assume that those are names in play.

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