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updated: 7/31/2011 9:07 PM

For Cubs, it's no deal

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ST. LOUIS -- The symbolism of the July 31 trading deadline often outshines the substance.

Even Cubs general manager Jim Hendry conceded Sunday that the Cubs didn't fare well in the symbolism department as they did not make a trade by the 3 p.m. nonwaiver deadline.

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In reality, history shows that many deals are made in August, and the Cubs have been active in that month during several seasons.

"I'm always willing to make deals," Hendry said before Sunday night's game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. "That's never been a problem for me. We're not necessarily done."

One player who was the subject of some speculation was first baseman Carlos Pena, who did not get traded. The Pirates were a possibility, but they settled on former Cub Derrek Lee in a trade for midlevel prospects to Baltimore.

Hendry said before the weekend started that he was not going to make a deal just to make a deal and that he was not going to give players away.

Pena, who may or may not be back with the Cubs next year, endorsed that.

"Maybe there will be more changes, more substantial changes, noticeable changes," Pena said. "The fans could be assured that everyone here is working toward exactly what they want. We want to win. Our GM wants to win. Our owner wants to win.

"I see movement, sometimes behind the scenes. I'd rather have someone really working toward a common goal instead of just for show, 'Look what I'm doing.' Our GM is not like that. He's not trying to make it look like he's working. He's working."

The Cubs' problems in making a deal are well known. They have too many players with bad contracts, no-trade clauses or 10-and-5 rights to be able to move them.

And Hendry has said he is not going to trade young players or players he feels can help the Cubs next year. He traded right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians last week to get about $1 million off the books and to give Tyler Colvin playing time in right field to see if he fits into the team's plans for next year and beyond.

The Cubs don't have a ready replacement at first base (or at some other positions). There is a possibility they could try to make a splash by signing a free agent such as Prince Fielder in the off-season. Or they could attempt to re-sign Pena.

"I look at it truthfully," Hendry said. "I try to do what's best for the organization moving forward. I think that with some people, you wouldn't get the value back that some people might necessarily think you would just to do that.

"The other factor, if you get a second-tier or two prospect back and you already have people better than that in your own system, then you really haven't done anything to help the organization, and then you're also put in the spot where if you add minor-league players today, that means somebody's going to be sent backward in our system or eliminated."

So rate of return was an issue with some players such as Pena and center fielder Marlon Byrd. There was little to no action on pitcher John Grabow, and baseball people from around the country say Hendry was not getting calls on pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who has a no-trade clause anyway.

"To make a trade today to say we made one and get somebody that I would think is not at the caliber I would expect to trade someone of our guys, I have no problem not moving people we didn't move," Hendry said.

"I think the days are gone where it has to be done by the deadline or everybody gets all if you didn't do something by 3 o'clock, this is a disaster or that's a disaster. I don't put much stock in that.

"The guys we kept are for the most part guys that still have a chance to be involved next year. If we do make a trade or two in August, that's still no more or less significant that if we made them today."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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