Who will step into Cubs' rotation this time?
The Jason Hammel/Jeff Samardzija trade watch presumably is underway.
Question is, who replaces each in the Cubs' starting rotation when and if they are traded, and can the Cubs finish the season with some modicum of respectability?
Hammel started Monday night's 5-4, 13-inning victory over the Marlins in Miami and worked 6 innings, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs. The Cubs went ahead in the top of the 13th on a pinch double by Travis Wood, a pitcher who came off the bench to pinch hit.
We've been down this road before with the pitching.
Two years ago, when the Cubs unloaded Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, the second half was a disaster, with the Cubs trotting out the likes of journeyman Justin Germano, Jason Berken and Chris Volstad to pitch down the stretch.
Last year at least the Cubs were able to look at some homegrown talent in lefty Chris Rusin. They also plugged right-hander Jake Arrieta into the rotation after obtaining him for pitcher Scott Feldman, whom they dealt to Baltimore in early July.
There do appear to be some intriguing options this year, and perhaps the Cubs will be able to see at least one pitcher who will be a part of things when their rebuilding starts to bear fruit.
Let's take a look at the possibilities at Class AAA Iowa:
Kyle Hendricks: Obtained from the Texas organization in the Dempster trade two years ago, the 24-year-old Hendricks is the closest to major-league-ready of the Cubs' top pitching prospects who hasn't been up.
He is 7-5 with a 3.78 ERA and a WHIP of 1.21. Last year Hendricks went 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA between Iowa and Class AA Tennessee. That earned him the organization's minor-league pitcher-of-the-year honor.
Eric Jokisch: This Northwestern University product out of downstate Virginia, Ill., is 5-6 with a 3.64 ERA and a WHIP of 1.15. The 24-year-old lefty was a part of the Cubs' rookie-development program last winter, held at Northwestern.
Tsuyoshi Wada: The 33-year-old right-hander out of Japan signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in January. At Iowa he is 6-4 with a 2.82 ERA and a WHIP of 1.23. He is tied with Hendricks for the team lead in strikeouts (76).
Wada pitched in the Baltimore system for two years and had Tommy John surgery in May 2012. From 2003-2011 with Fukuoka in Japan, Wada went 107-61 with a 3.13 ERA.
Rusin: The Cubs have seen plenty of Rusin, both in spring training and in the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the big club in different stints. He suffered the defeat Monday in Iowa's 5-1 loss at Sacramento. Rusin fell to 4-9 with a 4.02 ERA and a WHIP of 1.24.
First-round draft pick Kyle Schwarber, a catcher-outfielder out of Indiana University, had 2 home runs over his first three games at Class A Boise. Schwarber was 7-for-11 over his first three games as a professional.
Baseball America reports that the Cubs have signed at least three more draft picks, all of them pitchers. The Cubs are not confirming the signings as the pitchers need to pass physical exams.
Carson Sands, a lefty taken in the fourth round, reportedly gets a signing bonus of $1.1 million; the "slot" for that pick was $480,000.
Fifth rounder Justin Steele, another lefty, reportedly gets $1 million from a slot position of $359,000. Eleventh-rounder Jordan Bring, a righty, reportedly signed for $100,000.
The Cubs went about $1.5 million to sign Schwarber for $3.125 million and wanted to use the savings to spend more heavily on pitching in later rounds.