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Cubs not feeling the pressure of ticking clock on trade market

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Cubs not feeling the pressure of ticking clock on trade market

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is a week away and as of Friday afternoon, the Cubs haven't made any moves just yet.

That's something of a change of pace, considering the major trades Theo Epstein's front office has pulled off around the Fourth of July the last two years - sending Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A's for Addison Russell last season and trading Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles for Jake Arreita and Pedro Strop in 2013.

But then again, the Cubs are in a completely different position now as buyers instead of sellers.

"We're actively trying to make our team better," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. "We're obviously on the phone non-stop, trying to be in communication with everyone.

"It's too early to say definitively, but we wouldn't be making this many calls and working as hard as we are if we weren't trying to make things happen before the deadline."

There's been a lot of talk about how much financial flexibility the Cubs have and whether or not they're able to take on big contracts along the lines of Philadelphia Phillies pitchers Cole Hamels or Jonathan Papelbon.

[RELATED - Source: Cubs chasing Cole Hamels; David Price not in play yet]

Hoyer attempted to put that worry to bed Friday before the Cubs began their three-game series with the Phillies at Wrigley Field.

"Right now, our focus is trying to find the best fit for us," Hoyer said. "I think we have confidence that if there were something that makes sense, we'd be able to figure it out financially."

The Cubs have to balance the fact that they began play Friday 9.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central and three games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the division and in the battle for the first NL wild card spot.

Barring a serious hot streak from the Cubs or a collapse from both the Cardinals and the Pirates, it will be hard for Joe Maddon and Co. to claim the division crown this year. So their only chance of playing deep into October may be that one-game playoff against the Pirates or San Francisco Giants or some other team.

So don't look for the Cubs to give up any big-time prospects for a guy that will become a free agent at the end of the season. Hamels makes sense given that he's under control through the 2018 season, though he's still owed roughly $100 million on his current deal.

[MORE - Cubs waiting to see what message front office sends at trade deadline]

"You're never going to do anything that's going to be detrimental to the future of the franchise," Hoyer said. "You can't force yourself into a position.

"A lot of teams have had very good runs in the second half when they didn't make significant moves. There's also a lot of deals to be made in August, which I think the Pirates have shown the last couple of years.

"Listen, we're working hard and I'm hopeful that we will find a good fit."

Hoyer pointed to the Houston Astros trading for Scott Kazmir Thursday and said he believes that could jumpstart an otherwise quiet market. But the Cubs GM also reminded everybody that no matter when the market really takes off, most of the deals don't happen until July 30th and 31st, when teams are up against the deadline and are "forced into action."

The Cubs are still looking for more arms to add depth to their pitching staff, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. There are several big-name starting pitchers on the block, but the Cubs need at least somebody who can slot into the No. 5 spot in the rotation and provide stability. They would also like to add another veteran bat, though Kyle Schwarber's arrival has helped revive a sleepy offense of late.

"We can certainly have more pitchers on the big-league roster and we can have more pitchers in the minor leagues and add depth," Hoyer said. "With a third of the season to go, trying to get through that stretch is really important.

"We could have injuries across the way, we could have poor performances and you're going to have to make sure you're able to handle that."

With the addition of the second wild card, more teams believe they're closer to a playoff spot, so there aren't as many organizations as in the past looking to sell off right now. But there are also teams that can jump into the mix in the last minute.

The Cardinals (reliever Steve Cishek) and Pirates (veteran slugger Aramis Ramirez) have already made minor moves to bolster their roster for the stretch run. But Hoyer insists the Cubs front office isn't feeling pressure to pull the trigger.

"Ultimately, you have to make deals that make sense for our team," Hoyer said. "I think the minute you start reacting to your competition, whether it's in December or July, it's always a bad idea.

"You gotta have your plan, you gotta stick to it. There's no question. Hopefully every contender is gonna better themselves at some point in July or August and you can't react to that."

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What it comes down to is finding any way into the postseason. Even the one-game playoff is better than cleaning out lockers after the final day of the regular season. The San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals proved that by winning that wild card game last year and making it all the way to the World Series.

"I think the thought process is the only way to win the World Series is to play in October," Hoyer said. "That's our mindset. Obviously there's a lot of games between us and the couple teams above us [in the NL Central]. Can we chase those teams down? Yeah, we can play exceptionally well.

"But ultimately, the Giants and the Royals showed that you have to get into the tournament in order to win and that's the way our focus is."

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Baseball players don't forget grudges. Javy Baez and Reds pitcher Amir Garrett gave an example of that on Saturday.

Garrett struck out Baez in the seventh inning of the first game of the Cubs-Reds doubleheader. Garrett showed some excitement with the strikeout and then said something to Baez. They both started jawing at each other and suddenly the benches cleared.

At first glance, it looked like Garrett was a bit too excited to get a strikeout with no one on base. Turns out Baez had his own bit of swag for Garrett last year (Friday was the one-year anniversary) in the form of a grand slam at Wrigley Field.

This time Garrett got Baez and wanted to even things up a bit.

Things didn't get too feisty despite the benches clearing, but Anthony Rizzo did rush to Baez's side at some speed. This could be a matchup to keep an eye out for in the future.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

Siera Santos, Kelly Crull, and David DeJesus go into the audio archives to break down the biggest games for the Cubs in Cincinnati.

David DeJesus gives us his top 3 ballgames with such gems as The Schwarber Game, The Kris Bryant Game, Starlin Castro’s debut, and Jake Arrieta’s second no hitter.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: