The Cubs have not lit up the scoreboard lately and will not be confused with the ’27 Yankees anytime soon. While the Cubs could add a bat before the deadline and have shown interest in Ben Zobrist, Will Venable and Gerardo Parra, Jed Hoyer said the offensive improvement will have to come from within. Hoyer expects several players to rebound and perform closer to career norms in the second half.
Pitching remains the focus for the Cubs and the front office has been looking for help for more than a month. The Cubs lack starting pitching depth and the scare with Jason Hammel drove home the concerns about the limited options behind the current rotation. And while it appears Hammel will be fine, the Cubs will not know for sure until he takes the mound in Cincinnati on July 21 if the hamstring injury is behind him.
The Cubs are also interested in adding a reliever to the backend of the bullpen and the front office has been looking into acquiring Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies since at least May.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said publicly the front office would prefer to make deals that improve the Cubs for now and in the future. It is not likely the Cubs will pay the price to acquire a rental like LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Jeff Samardzija or RHP Mike Leake, much less RHP Johnny Cueto. But there are several options that would make sense for the Cubs if the front office decides to avoid the rental market.
With the first round of the Crosstown Cup series over the weekend, Jeff Samardzija was a hot topic of conversation. Even with the Sox recent run, Samardzija is expected to be traded by the deadline. The Blue Jays have reportedly shown the most interest in him. And that would make sense considering Alex Anthopoulos came close to acquiring him from the Cubs and has wanted the right hander on his roster for two years. The Yankees, Royals and Orioles have been linked to Samardzija as well as the Astros, Tigers and Pirates.
Jed Hoyer was asked about the possibility of trading for Samardzija and while he could not really comment, Hoyer and the Cubs have been paying attention at the way he has been pitching of late. Hoyer told the beat writers the Cubs would not have a problem trading with the White Sox. But the Cubs are not sure the Sox are ready to move any of their players.
The Sun-Times reported “the only thing preventing a serious conversation about it so far is the Sox upper brass clinging to the misguided notion that with a few good weeks of baseball they can start the process of leap-frogging eight teams to win a wild card spot.”
Gordon Wittenmyer pointed to a package of Mike Olt and Arismendy Alcantara or building a package around Javier Baez as a PTBNL might be enough for the White Sox to move Samardzija to the other side of Chicago.
All eyes were on Samardzija prior to Friday’s game and he spent time with Chris Bosio and his old teammates. According to the Sun-Times, Samardzija and Bosio maintain a strong relationship. And Samardzija is “already on the Cubs’ radar as a free agent depending on his price and their resources” according to the report.
Reports have been suggesting for a couple of weeks that A.J. Preller could trade several of his starting pitchers and in the process admitting the path the Padres took in the off-season was not the way to build a winning team.
The Padres have three starting pitchers that have been connected to the Cubs … RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Andrew Cashner and RHP James Shields.
Ken Rosenthal reported this weekend, “The Cubs and Astros are among the many teams that could target Padres’ starting pitchers. The Cubs, with their surplus of middle infielders, would seem to match up well and the Astros’ manager, A.J. Hinch, previously worked in the Padres front office. The Padres’ Tyson Ross is under club control through 2017 and he would carry the most value of that group.”
The Cubs were runners up in the late push to sign James Shields. Joe Maddon wanted the Cubs to sign him but Shields decided San Diego was a better fit for him and his family, plus the Padres offered him a better chance to win immediately. Shields is under contract through the 2018 season with a club option for $16 million in 2019. Shields’ contract includes an opt out after the 2016 season and he is scheduled to make $21 million per year starting next season (2016-18).
With the injury history of Andrew Cashner and his struggles outside of PETCO Park, it is really hard to see the Cubs making a deal for him. A team looking for stability and depth in a rotation would likely stay away from Cashner. Even with his incredible upside, he spends time on the DL and he is one start and a little less than 14 innings from the totals he put up last season.
Tyson Ross could be a fit with the Cubs, depending on what Preller is looking for in return. Ross actually has better numbers on the road this season than in San Diego. Ross is known as a good guy in the clubhouse, which is important to the Cubs’ front office. Jason McLeod built a relationship with Ross’ little brother Joe and spoke highly of him and the entire family prior to Ross making his big league debut against the Cubs on June 6.
It has become an incredibly unpopular move with the fan base when the front office acquires players from the Padres or the Red Sox. But trading for Tyson Ross would give the Cubs a reliable starter that could slide in behind Jason Hammel with a lot of upside and at the same time would not keep them financially from pursuing LHP David Price or RHP Jordan Zimmermann in the off-season.
The Cubs are also looking for a late inning reliever and have been linked to Jonathan Papelbon for a couple of months. The Cubs are interested in Papelbon and the controversial closer reportedly has the Cubs at the top of his list of teams he would like to be traded to before the deadline.
Papelbon would like to be moved and recently said he would be disappointed if he is still with the Phillies on August 1. But will the Phillies move any of their players before July 31?
Andy MacPhail is now in charge and he has a history of being very deliberate when it comes to trading players. MacPhail is not going to make a deal just to make one. And with ‘Stand’ Pat Gillick also in the Phillies’ front office it could be rather hard to acquire any of their players unless the team is willing to overpay, or basically meet their asking price.
Nick Cafardo reported Sunday the Cubs have the pieces to pull off a trade for Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon and it would be a coup for Theo Epstein if he could make that blockbuster deal. Based on Cafardo’s report, the Cubs interest is still there in both players but it could cost too much to deal with the Phillies. Cafardo did not indicate which players from the Cubs’ system it would take to land both Hamels and Papelbon in the same transaction.
The rumors will only increase over the next 18 days. The mainstream media has also linked the Cubs to LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Tom Koehler, LHP Jon Niese, RHP Adam Warren and RHP Nathan Eovaldi. The list figures to grow in the days leading up to the deadline until the Cubs trade for a starting pitcher and/or a reliever.