Now that Zack Greinke is in Milwaukee, meet the next big trade target

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Now that the Zack Greinke trade is official, Matt Garza figures to be the most popular name brought up in trade conversations in the coming days and weeks.

Garza, who just turned 27 last month, has become a legitimate frontline starter since coming over from the Twins in November of 2007, posting a 3.86 ERA over 95 games (94 starts) with the Rays, averaging 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. And pitching in the tough AL East, no less. The right-hander went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA this past season and has topped 200 innings in each of the past two seasons.

The Rays have a pretty nice commodity with Garza in that he is under team control through 2013. So while he isn’t an “ace” like Greinke, he’ll still cost quite a bit in return. Garza made $3.35 million in his first time through the arbitration process last winter as a “Super Two.”

We have already heard that the Rays are motivated to trade Garza and that the team has talked about a potential deal with the Cubs. The Rangers have emerged as a potential suitor in recent days, especially after losing out on Cliff Lee. The Nationals have been involved in talks for just about every pitcher available this winter, including Garza, Lee and Greinke. No way they give up now. Judging by the way this Hot Stove has taken shape, there’s probably some surprise team I’m leaving out.

Rays VP Andrew Friedman told Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune on Friday that he wasn’t motivated to move any of his starting pitchers, though he did qualify his statement by saying he is “open minded.” That sounds like GM speak for “make me an offer.”

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.