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Cubs, Matt Garza agree to one-year, $9.5 million contract

Theo Epstein brought a track record from Boston of never going to arbitration with his players. He kept that record intact as Cubs president.

The club avoided an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday by agreeing with right-hander Matt Garza on a one-year contract worth about $9.5 million.

Garza had asked for $12.5 million, and the Cubs countered with $7.95 million. Garza made $5.95 million in 2011.

He also will be eligible for arbitration next season. He can’t become a free agent until after the 2013 season.

Garza was 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA in 31 starts last season after coming to the Cubs from the Tampa Bay Rays in an eight-player trade under former general manager Jim Hendry. Garza led the Cubs in strikeouts with 197 (198 innings pitched) and allowed only 14 home runs. His ERA after the All-Star break was 2.45 in 15 starts, seventh-best in the majors for starters.

The deal comes one day after Garza’s California home was burglarized and his 2008 American League championship ring was stolen. He recorded two playoff victories against Epstein’s Red Sox that season to help the Rays to their first pennant.

Garza was rumored to be on the trading block, though Epstein made it clear that keeping him was just as viable an option.

“My name is in trade rumors every season, so it doesn’t bother me,” Garza said at the Cubs Convention. “It’s been a business. It’s always going to be a business, and if things happen, they happen. But I’m happy where I’m at, and right now I’m a Chicago Cub and I’ll be pitching in Wrigley come April.”

“He’s a pro,” Epstein said. “And I think through all the media speculation, its important to remember how big a part of this team he is. He’s a rare, rare commodity. He’s a top-of-the-rotation-type starter. He’s proven it in the American League East. He proved it here last year in the National League Central. He’s playoff-proven. He’s a guy, when he has the ball, our team thinks we’re going to win that day. That’s important. You can’t underestimate the impact of that on a ballclub.”