McKnight: Will Cubs go after a proven starter?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Philadelphia Phillies' starting pitcher Cole Hamels is drawing the interest of playoff-minded teams. Will the Cubs be buyers?

    Philadelphia Phillies' starting pitcher Cole Hamels is drawing the interest of playoff-minded teams. Will the Cubs be buyers? Associated Press

 
By Connor McKnight
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 6/14/2015 1:25 PM

The National League is just sitting there.

In the East, there's the Mets and they can't hit. Now they're toying with a six-man rotation, trying to display their surplus of arms so they can perhaps spin one of their lesser talents for a bat.

 

There are the Nationals, whose sputtering start is now behind them, but they face other issues as well. While injuries are part of the game and they're waiting to get Doug Fister and Stephen Strasburg back into the rotation, who would have thought those two would carry ERA's of 4.31 and 6.55?

The Dodgers are the Dodgers, sure. They'll Dodger until they can't Dodger anymore. Then, with a massive injection of cash, they'll start Dodger-ing again. That's understood.

If anyone can explain the Giants to me, I'd be appreciative. I can tell you this; With Hunter Pence, the Giants are 12-6. Without him, they've been a .500 team. It's not much, but what's a Giants stat without a Pence reference?

Closer to home, the Pirates are operating with a league-average offense now that Andrew McCutchen has finally shaken off whatever hex was put on him for the month of April. Still, no one expected A.J. Burnett to look like a top-tier Ace at age 38.

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Meanwhile, the Cardinals have Adam Wainwright, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday and Lance Lynn on the DL. They'll reload from a seemingly inexhaustible farm system, but even for St. Louis that's a lot to overcome.

The landscape of the National League gives Cubs fans a chance to see how aggressive this front office can be. For the first time since taking over the club, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a reason to buy.

July Fourth will mark one year since the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal. At the time, it looked like the last piece of selling that Theo and Jed had to do. Now it's time for the upswing.

It's a different kind of balancing act for the Cubs front office now. In their first three seasons, the aim was singular: acquire young talent. Now it becomes twofold: build a winner while keeping the pipeline.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

What can't (and won't) happen is letting a general manager such as Rueben Amaro, desperate to prove he can do more than sit on his hands, force the Cubs to pay an astronomical price. Sure, Amaro controls the fate of Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and a few other useful pieces, but the asking price for anything out of Philadelphia sounds far more than anyone of sound mind should pay.

But making a move for established starter such as Hamels might be exactly what the Cubs need. With Tsyoshi Wada struggling to go deeper than five innings and little else but Travis Wood or Edwin Jackson to turn to, a starter makes perfect sense.

That's the fun for Cubs fans in the next month or so. After a long wait, they get to grip the arm rests at Wrigley a little tighter while they wait to see just how close to the floor Theo and Jed choose to press the gas pedal.

• Connor McKnight can be heard regularly on WGN 720-AM and is a co-host of The Beat, the station's sports talk show on the weekends. Follow him on Twitter @McKnight_WGN

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