PHOENIX -- Alfonso Soriano's trade value may never be higher than it is now, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum would hate to lose the veteran outfielder.
"That's been our one cornerstone as far as run production," Sveum said of Soriano, 36, who has 32 home runs and a career-high 108 RBIs, with one year remaining on his contract. "It's hard to replace that. [Anthony] Rizzo should be fine in a full season, and then you find somebody else who can hit home runs to hit fifth. That's where you start. Who knows who that is? That's the million-dollar question we have to deal with."
The Brewers have three players who have combined for more than 200 extra-base hits. Sveum would like to see that kind of production from the Cubs' lineup in the future. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said they will have financial flexiblity to pursue free agents this offseason, but Sveum said they have a lot of areas to address.
"We have multiple holes to fill," Sveum said. "It's not just one guy here, one guy there. It's 10 different spots we have to look hard at and try to get better."
Count Garza among Sveum's biggest supporters
PHOENIX -- If Matt Garza had injured his elbow last season and had been placed on the 60-day disabled list, he would've gone home a long time ago. Instead, the Cubs pitcher has stayed with his teammates.
"If this happened last year, you wouldn't see me, I'd be home," Garza said Sunday. "I like coming here and hanging out with the guys. I have a whole different perspective on this thing, and a whole different hunger, and I'm chomping at the bit."
Garza has been sidelined with a stress reaction in his right elbow. He last pitched on July 21, and finished 5-7 in 18 starts.
On Saturday, Garza was one of the veterans who met in manager Dale Sveum's office to give him feedback on the season.
"I told him we're on the verge of [100 losses] ... and I told him last year we were close to .500 and I hated every day of my life coming in here," Garza said. "It was miserable [last year]. I said, 'This year, I enjoy it, and I look forward to coming in here.' I said, 'You brought that back, so thank you.' Last year was a trying year. This year was a different type of mental fight, but I can actually enjoy this one."
Last season, the Cubs finished 71-91 under first-year manager Mike Quade, who was dismissed. What's been the difference with Sveum?
"He's more open, more sociable with us," Garza said. "He treats us like players. It's not like, 'This is you, this is you' -- he gives you the opportunity to fail. The way he's handled the situation we're in right now, it's tough. It's tough for him to keep it the same way each day, that's huge."
Garza has played for some of the most player-friendly managers in the game in Ron Gardenhire and Joe Maddon. He adds Sveum to that list.
"To end up with a guy like Dale is awesome, especially coming from the situation last year -- I'm not even going to go into it -- but this is awesome," Garza said.
The right-hander has seen positives from the young players, as well, despite the Cubs' losing record. Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro and Welington Castillo have shown some maturity.
"It's promising," Garza said. "The guys who want it and know they're going to be here, it's exciting to see. I've seen a lot for six, eight weeks now. I think it'll be fun [next year]. It might be slow, but it'll be fun."
Despite losses, Sveum appreciates work ethic
PHOENIX -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum may spend most of the offseason catching up on sleep.
"A lot of people ask me how I'm doing, and it's more about [the players] than me," Sveum said prior to Sunday's game. "I can deal with it. It's not that easy to deal with losing as a player. The preparation and the hard work they put in, when you don't get anything out of it win-wise, it's not very fun."
Sveum's first year at the Cubs' helm has resulted in 99 losses heading into Sunday's series finale against the D-backs.
"The good thing about baseball is every day is different," Sveum said. "For the most part, I've been in this game long enough to understand how this process works. I think patience is one of my good points. I do have a lot of patience and understand the process we're going through, and understood it at the beginning of the season.
"You still lose sleep over a lot of things," he said. "You don't wake up every morning thinking you're going to lose."
It may be more of the same next season as the Cubs continue to build what baseball operations president Theo Epstein has called the "foundation for success."
"I don't think you're ever prepared to lose 99 games," Sveum said. "Each day is different and you do your best each day and put your best lineup out there. The bottom line is the players, especially all the guys who have been here for the whole year, you feel bad for them. Each and every one of those guys has busted their butt for the whole season and, unfortunately, it hasn't turned out well."
Sveum appreciates the hard work of the players. He said there's been no need for him to throw a fit in the clubhouse.
"You can go out and scream and yell and have meetings, and in my dealings with baseball and grown men, that's not the way to go about things. Otherwise, you start losing respect," Sveum said. "The good thing about this season is I think the clubhouse has been the same every day, and I think the work ethic and the preparation has been the same all year. The core players understand all that stuff. Then it comes together and the wins start coming together, as well."
Garza itching to start throwing program
PHOENIX -- Cubs pitcher Matt Garza won't start throwing until December at the earliest due to a stress reaction in his right elbow. He was shut down after his July 21 start.
Garza will spend the offseason at his California home.
"I still have to get my upper body strength back," the right-hander said. "I haven't thrown a ball. It's been a pain not to do it. I ordered a left-handed glove so I wouldn't do it, so I could go shag [fly balls]."
Garza's contract status also is to be determined. He has one more year of arbitration before he is a free agent. Right now, his focus is on pitching.
"[My contract] is the last thing I have to worry about," he said. "My job right now is to get ready for next season."
• The Cubs have issued three walks to pitchers in the last two games, to raise the season total to 22, the most in baseball.
According to research by STATS Inc., the Padres are second, having issued 14 walks to pitchers, and that includes one walk to the Reds' Mike Leake, who was pinch-hitting. After the Cubs and Padres, the D-backs and Pirates are tied at 13, then the Braves and Marlins, who have issued 12 free passes to pitchers.
• Starlin Castro heads into the final three games having played in all 159 games at shortstop, making 158 starts. If he does not sit, he could be the first player in Cubs history to play in all 162 games at short.
Ivan DeJesus holds the franchise record with 160 games at shortstop, set in 1978 and '79. The last Cubs infielder to appear in all 162 games was Ron Santo in 1968.
• The Cubs wrap up the regular season with a three-game series against the Astros, starting on Monday. Jason Berken (0-2, 5.14 ERA), Chris Volstad (3-11, 6.64), and Travis Wood (6-13, 4.39) will start the final three games.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.