The baseball calendar reads something like this: April, May, June, Rumorville, August, September, October.
In the real world, it read “July 1” on calendars Monday, but every baseball fan knows the days of this month are filled with trade talks until the 31st, the deadline for making deals without waivers being required.
The Cubs will be sellers again, and Sunday in Seattle, team President Theo Epstein told reporters there’s a 50-50 chance the Cubs will make a deal.
Figure on the odds being better than that.
The Cubs have several movable and marketable pieces and some that aren’t so movable and marketable.
We’ll get into all of that here and discuss the consequences of making any move.
Matt Garza and Scott Feldman are the two pitchers likely to be traded by the end of the month, as it appears the Cubs want to build around Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood.
Garza has come back from last year’s stress reaction in his right elbow and this spring’s left-lat strain to pitch well. He takes a 3-1 record and 3.83 ERA into Wednesday night’s start at Oakland.
There may be no better time than now to move Garza. He’s been on the disabled list in each of his three years with the Cubs, twice for lengthy stints. He’s also a free agent at the end of this season. As one of the top two or three starters on the market, he could fetch the Cubs a couple of nice prospects, bringing his situation with the Cubs full circle. Former general manager Jim Hendry dealt several prospects to Tampa Bay to get Garza in January 2011.
Feldman has been a model of quiet consistency after dropping his first 3 decisions. He’ll start Tuesday’s series opener at Oakland with a 7-6 record and 3.46 ERA. He’d be a nice mid-rotation starter for some contender and could bring prospects along the lines of what Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm brought at last year’s trading deadline.
Consequences: The Cubs want to avoid the embarrassment of another 100-loss season. In the second half of last year, they ran out the likes of Jason Berken, Justin Germano and Chris Volstad to start games along with rookies Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley. The results were predictable.
Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer could ask for a major-league arm in return with any trade they make. If the Cubs don’t deal swingman Carlos Villanueva, he’s an option to go back to the rotation. Rusin and Raley are at Class AAA Iowa, with each having more experience now.
Back end of bullpen:
Since signing with the Cubs and eventually taking over as closer, Kevin Gregg has been a revelation in his second go-round with the team.
He blew his first save chance Saturday but rebounded Sunday with his 13th save in 14 chances. That makes Gregg an ideal candidate to be traded, either as a contender’s closer or setup guy.
Consequences: If the Cubs trade Gregg, they’ll need somebody to close games. Carlos Marmol is gone. Shawn Camp is still there, even though he has been less effective than Marmol was.
A trade of Gregg could give the Cubs a chance to look at Blake Parker as their closer. He did that job in Iowa, piling up 41 saves over the years there and 66 overall in the minors. Granted, there’s a big difference between closing in Triple-A and closing in the big leagues, but the Cubs would have nothing much to lose in giving the 28-year-old Parker a shot over the final two months.
Center field and right:
The Cubs could get center fielder David DeJesus (shoulder) off the disabled list right before or after the all-star break. He’s in the final season of his two-year deal and could give a team a solid left-handed bat and consistent on-base threat.
Right fielder Nate Schierholtz has been an under-the-radar achiever in right field for the Cubs. He could be in demand as a left-handed bat.
Consequences: There aren’t many adverse consequences in moving DeJesus, even with Ryan Sweeney heading to the DL with a broken rib, suffered Saturday in Seattle.
The Cubs could use Brian Bogusevic in center. Dave Sappelt is a likely September call-up. And we’ll see if Brett Jackson gets healthy enough at Iowa to merit a shot.
The Cubs would miss Schierholtz, but any of the names above could hold down right field as well as center in a crunch.
The Soriano question:
When left fielder Alfonso Soriano sat out a couple of games in Milwaukee last week, Twitter lit up with questions from fans wanting to know if a trade was in the works.
Let’s be realistic.
Soriano swung the bat well in Seattle, and he indeed may be heating up. But he has a hitting line of .257/.284/.428 for an OPS of .712. He has 9 homers, 35 RBI, 9 walks and 71 strikeouts in 292 at-bats.
Of course, Soriano still has one more season after this left on his eight-year, $136 million contract.
The contract aside — and it takes two people to shove that contract aside — the bigger problem is finding a team that wants Soriano. As a player with 10-and-5 rights, Soriano can veto any deal involving him.
If you’re the GM of a contending club, you’ve got to ask yourself, “How can Soriano help us?” He is 37 years old, and if he indeed is entering a hot streak, it could well be followed by a cold streak.
And if you’re a GM, shouldn’t you be able to find five, six or seven left fielders or designated hitters who can give you more than what Soriano can bring? (If you’re a contender, chances are you’ve got those guys on your team already.)
I’ve always felt Soriano would play out his contract with the Cubs. It’ll take some doing to change that opinion.
Follow Bruce’s Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter @BruceMiles2112, and check out his Chicago’s Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.