After exploring Garza’s trade value this winter — then narrowly avoiding salary arbitration — the Cubs say they plan to start talks this spring on a possible long-term deal for their top pitcher.
It was the most specific sign yet of the organization-building vision new president Theo Epstein and his crew have in mind as they opened their first spring training in charge Saturday at Fitch Park.
And it might even suggest a perceived timeline for contending again.
‘‘We focused really hard on getting the one-year number done a few weeks ago,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said of the $9.5 million deal struck the day of Garza’s scheduled arbitration hearing. ‘‘We didn’t have any kind of long-term discussions before that, but certainly there was some dialogue about possibly having some long-term discussions at some point maybe this spring. . . . I think we probably will sit down and talk.’’
Garza, 28, wasn’t available to media. He told two reporters Friday that he didn’t want to talk about contract issues but was open to considering a long-term deal.
‘‘We’ve said many times he’s the kind of guy we need,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘We need more Matt Garzas, not less. We need a rotation full of those guys, so if we can work something out, that’d be wonderful.’’
Not to overfeed the beast of spring optimism as camp opens, but that need for Garza on a long-term contract doesn’t exist if the brass intends to spend much of that potential contract length continuing to rebuild.