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.”

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.