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The Cubs get Matt Garza in an eight-player deal

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UPDATE:  Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago says the deal is done: eight players are involved in the deal that sends Matt Garza from Tampa Bay to the Cubs.

Specifically: the Rays will get pitching prospect Chris Archer — the Cubs’ number one prospect — outfielder Brandon Guyer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and outfielder Sam Fuld. In addition to Garza, the Cubs will get a minor-league pitcher and a minor-league outfielder.

This is a big, big deal. Mostly for the Rays, who have added multiple top prospects to an already-stocked minor league system.  While Garza is a fine pitcher, he’s not that fine.  And the Rays aren’t going to miss much of a beat anyway, what with Jeremy Hellickson taking his spot in the rotation.

For the Cubs this is a head-scratcher. They need pitching, but their payroll is bloated and their farm system thin.  At some point they’re going to need to integrate some cheap talent into that mix, and they just gave away a lot of it for a good but by no means great pitcher.

This is a win for the Rays. It may mean a short term improvement for the Cubs, but I don’t like this deal for them.

10:52 AMBruce Miles reports that the Cubs are nearing a trade for Matt Garza.

We first reported that the Cubs and Rays were talking about Garza a month ago. There have been multiple on-again, off-again reports since then.  This stuff now seems like a new, more urgent push, with people in the Twitterverse who are in the know characterizing it as close to being done.

The rumored return: prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee,Brandon Guyer and Robinson Chirinos.  Baseball America ranked Archer as the Cubs’ number 1 prospect last year, Lee as the number 4 and Guyer as number 10. Not sure on Chirinos, but I hear he has a great personality. (UPDATE:  Chirinos is the number 16 prospect)

Seems like a steep asking price for Garza.  But the Cubs are pretty desperate for some starting pitching.  We’ll update this as events unfold, of course.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.