Carlos Pena has really turned it on for the Cubs lately.
He and Aramis Ramirez each hit a pair of home runs Monday in the Cubs’ 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field.
Here’s where it gets intriguing.
At 32-46, the Cubs have little realistic chance of getting into the playoff race. So might Pena’s 16 home runs at this point look more attractive to another team, allowing the Cubs to get back some prospects in a possible trade?
Like it or not, talk turns to trades when a team is 14 games below .500 in late June and the trading deadline is just over a month away.
Pena says he’d rather stay.
“I’m a Cub,” said Pena, who signed a one-year, $10 million free-agent deal last December. “I don’t imagine myself anywhere else. I don’t even look that far ahead. In fact, I would look to win here. And that’s the only way I would have it. What’s going to happen in the future, I have no idea, but in my mind, I’m a Cub until the end.”
Pena is one of few trading chips general manager Jim Hendry has. Most of the players the Cubs would love to move have prohibitive contracts or no-trade clauses. A good number of players other teams want, the Cubs would like to keep.
But Pena is an interesting case. He’s on pace to hit 33 home runs, even after not hitting his first of the year until May 3. A team in the race might want some extra pop in the middle of its order along with Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base.
Hendry has begun some meetings with staff members this week, with the short-term future of the club sure to be among the agenda items.
Field manager Mike Quade says he’s focusing on the here and now, as are the players. The Cubs are due to get center fielder Marlon Byrd, second baseman Darwin Barney and reliever Kerry Wood off the disabled list soon, and the players say they’d like to see what they can do with a full team together.
“Hopefully,” said Ramirez, who gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the first inning with his seventh homer of the year. He doubled in the fifth inning and hit a solo homer in the seventh to put the Cubs up 7-2. “We haven’t been healthy. Right now, we’re playing better, but we’re missing Marlon Byrd and Barney. We haven’t been together, basically, the whole year, but I understand this is business. They’re going to do what’s best for the team.”
One of the team’s building blocks is pitcher Matt Garza. He worked 7⅓ innings and improved to 4-6 with a 4.07 ERA. He came to the Cubs last winter in a trade with Tampa, and he, too, said he’d like to see what the Cubs can do with this group.
“Of course,” Garza said. “What do you mean? Why throw in the towel now? We’re missing an all-star in Byrd. We’re still missing Barney; he’s having a great season. We’ve got (Starlin) Castro doing his thing. I think we can make a run. We’re going to be all right.”
Pena sounded a similar note.
“No doubt,” he said. “I think we have a great ballclub. Obviously, we’ve been flagged by injuries, and it’s been difficult for us. But I just think we’ve got what it takes. We get this group playing together and playing well and play as well as we’ve been playing lately and turn those tight games and hopefully have those lean our way, I think it will be very fun this summer.”
Who says eternal optimism is confined only to Cubs fandom?Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.