Cubs

Chase Utley? GM Jed Hoyer says Cubs aren’t close to any deals (yet)

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Chase Utley? GM Jed Hoyer says Cubs aren’t close to any deals (yet)

Chase Utley – a six-time All-Star second baseman and a World Series champion with the Philadelphia Phillies – is the biggest name the Cubs have been linked to in a potential August trade.

While Jed Hoyer wouldn’t comment specifically on Utley, the Cubs general manager did say the team isn’t close to any deals. Yet.

“There’s nothing imminent,” Hoyer said before Friday’s 6-5 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. “We’ll keep grinding through the waiver wire, keep looking at what’s available. But nothing’s imminent. We like the way the club’s playing right now.”

The Cubs don’t want to disrupt the chemistry, winning eight in a row and 14 of their last 15 games, moving their playoff odds to around 90 percent on Baseball Prospectus.

Utley does have a 2008 World Series ring and a .902 OPS in 200-plus career postseason plate appearances, though at the age of 36 he’s not quite the same player anymore (.196 average). The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels are among the teams that have reportedly shown interest.

[MORE: Lester or Arrieta? Who would Cubs start in one-game playoff?]

Utley – who grew up in Long Beach, California, played at UCLA and owns a home in the Bay Area – cleared waivers and ultimately controls his destiny as a player with no-trade rights.

San Francisco general manager Bobby Evans told Bay Area reporters that the Giants have made an offer for Utley, who is owed more than $4 million for the rest of this season, plus a $2 million buyout of his 2016 option (which triggers at 500 plate appearances but looks out of reach now). 

USA Today reported there’s a belief Utley’s decision will come down to the Cubs and Angels, citing anonymous executives involved in the trade talks.

“I wouldn’t be surprised with anything, honestly,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I know that they’re actively (looking). But then again, this time of year, it’s hard to piece it together sometimes.

“I’m really pleased with what we have. We’re kind of finally figuring out how to fit all the different pieces together – and that matters when you get that nice little flow going out there.

“I would not be surprised, but I’m not expecting anything.”

[RELATED: Cubs keeping Jon Lester’s yips in perspective]

The Cubs have options at second base after shaking up their middle-infield defense and anointing Addison Russell as the franchise shortstop. Starlin Castro made his first career start at second base on Friday afternoon and notched three hits.

“I feel pretty good out there,” Castro said. “It’s a little different than shortstop because you have everything in front of you and things are a little bit backwards. But, still, if you play short, you can play anywhere.”

Maddon could see Castro as a short-term answer at second base if the three-time All-Star suddenly gets hot.

“Sure, we’ll see how it all plays out,” Maddon said. “I’m very open-minded about that. Listen, this guy has been a big part of the past several years. Like I said, I’m a big fan of his work ethic. I think he really cares a lot. All that stuff matters. He’s just had a tough year to this point.”

The Cubs are willing to sacrifice defense for offense and play Chris Coghlan at second base. Maddon trusts Jonathan Herrera as a steady defender and wants to keep his players fresh. Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella could also be X-factors in September.  

The Cubs appeared to max out their 2015 baseball budget at the July 31 trade deadline, addressing specific needs with smaller deals for No. 5 starter Dan Haren and hard-throwing reliever Tommy Hunter without mortgaging the farm system.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the stretch run, Cubs fans]

In theory, the Phillies could try to pay down Utley’s salary to get a higher-level prospect for essentially a six- or seven-week rental.

The Cubs also can’t dismiss what a battle-tested veteran like Utley – who’s 7-for-17 in five games since recovering from an ankle injury and coming off the disabled list last week – might bring to the lineup and their clubhouse.

“You’re always very aware of the team dynamic,” Hoyer said. “It’s a fragile thing. The team at this stage of year (has) been together for a long time. But at the same time, I don’t think you can shy away from bringing in a player that – in theory – could make you better.

“It’s a balancing act and one that you talk through and treat with a lot of care. There may never be a right or wrong answer. But I do think you have to pay attention to the team dynamics when you make that kind of move.”

Cubs reportedly a 'main player' in trade talks for Orioles' Zach Britton

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USA TODAY

Cubs reportedly a 'main player' in trade talks for Orioles' Zach Britton

According to Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, the Cubs are a “main player” in a possible trade for Orioles closer Zach Britton before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

The Cubs will face competition from some familiar names as far as a bidding war for Britton goes. 

After sending Cubs closer Brandon Morrow back to the 10-day disabled list with right biceps inflammation on Thursday, the team could be searching for another reliever.

The 30-year-old is a ninth-inning veteran who tallied a career-high 47 saves with a 0.54 ERA in 2016, the year he finished fourth in American League Cy Young Award voting. He’s also been selected to two All-Star Games in his eight-year career.

But the closer’s 2018 season has had its ups and downs. He’s spent time getting reacquainted to pitching after having surgery for a ruptured right Achilles tendon that kept Britton out until June. He’s only pitched in 15 games while posting a 3.68 ERA in 14 2/3 innings. Britton hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven appearances.

Should the Cubs actually be concerned with his recent health issues?  According to MLB.com, the Orioles reliever has “been showing a dramatic increase in velocity.” It seems it took him some time to get back to his previous form.

If he can even be close to the same player he was two years ago, Britton would be more than useful to the Cubs bullpen.

Jed Hoyer says Cubs plan to add depth before the trade deadline

Jed Hoyer says Cubs plan to add depth before the trade deadline

With the second half of the season about to kick off Thursday afternoon, the Cubs front office is in the final stretch of roster building as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline looms.

Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer spoke with NBC Sports Chicago's very own David Kaplan today on his ESPN 1000 radio show answering plenty of questions on what the Cubs' gameplan is before the trade deadline. 

There has already been a flurry of moves over the past few days, with two of the more enticing trade pieces being moved in new Dodger shortstop Manny Machado and former Padres reliever Brad Hand, who was traded to the Indians Thursday morning.

But when asked about going after big-name talent at the deadline, Hoyer explained while the team may "engage" in those conversations, the focus for him and the Cubs was on adding depth to the roster. 

"Obviously, we'll be involved in those [trade] discussions, but I do feel like adding depth is something we are going to do," Hoyer said. "We're going to be in on every discussion, but at the same time, I do believe we have the pieces internally to be a heck of a team." 

The name that has garnered attention recently has been Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, who is currently having the best season of his career at age 30, but Hoyer made no indication the Cubs would once again facilitate another blockbuster deal.

And even with Tyler Chatwood struggling to locate in the strike zone this season, Hoyer made it clear the front office hasn't lost faith in their second biggest investment of the off-season. 

"We're confident [Chatwood] will have a better second half, we're going to have a really big, long pennant race," Hoyer said. "It's going to be really challenging second half and we're going to need all the pitching we can possibly get and I think Tyler is going to be a big part of that." 

In terms of team needs, the Cubs are a club with few holes on their roster but could stand to add more pitching in both the bullpen and rotation with everyone but Jon Lester having frustrating moments in the first half of the season.

Making moves similar to the Mike Montgomery trade in 2016 are what Hoyer relishes, telling Kaplan those are the moves the Cubs "pride themselves on." 

But when it comes to Cubs improving on their already impressive first half of baseball, Jed Hoyer continued to back the players who are currently on the roster.

And while it may not be the move that creates the social media buzz fans crave this time of year, Hoyer knows he can get more from his current roster in the second half. 

"There's no doubt that the best way we can get better is by having guys we already have [play] better than they have to date."