With the Cubs in complete rebuild mode, they appear to be willing to listen to offers on anybody and everybody. The Sean Marshall trade proved that (though he was also their second-best trade chip behind Matt Garza).
That stands to reason. If this new-look front office is looking to build from the ground up, loading up on prospects and young players is the way to go. Trades are sometimes the easiest way to do that.
But who should Epstoyer (remember, the celebrity name for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer) not deal?
1. Starlin Castro
This one's pretty obvious. In a dismal 2011 season, Castro was the lone consistent bright spot on the Cubs. He's growing as a player and will continue to improve his power, baserunning ability and fielding. There's no doubt he is the most marketable player on this franchise and that may not change for decades.
In 2012, he will again be the main reason fans show up to Wrigley Field. Unless, of course, there is some miracle and the Cubs actually contend.
2. Andrew Cashner
Cashner won't turn 26 until the final month of the '12 season and is the team's best young pitcher. The only issue is his shoulder injury last season and how he bounces back. He figures to slot in as a solid member of the rotation in 2013 and beyond, but could wind up making some starts next season if his shoulder holds up.
Cashner may not become an ace, but he should be an integral part of the team's pitching staff nonetheless.
3. Brett Jackson
The Cubs' top prospect is said to be above average in every aspect of his game, but not stellar in any area. Because of that, there's some question if he will ever become a star. But even if he doesn't, I'll take a 23-year-old (he will turn 24 Aug. 2) who will get on base, score runs, drive in runs, steal bases and hit the ball out of the ballpark while playing good -- but not great -- defense.
No way the Cubs should deal this guy. He's getting close to big-league ready and probably figures to make his debut sometime in 2012.
4. Trey McNutt
He has the same birthday as Jackson, but is a year younger. McNutt was selected in the 32nd round of the same '09 draft, but was never expected to be an elite prospect. However, a stellar 2010 season put him on the map. He struggled badly at Double-A in '11, but is the team's best pitching prospect. Maybe that says some bad things about the shape of the minor leagues.
Either way, if the team is looking for young pitching with high upside, there's no point in trading a guy they already have that fits that same bill.
5. Matt Szczur
The Cubs' fifth round pick of the 2010 draft appears to be on a rapid ascent through the team's minor league system. He starred in rookie ball and two levels of Class-A after being drafted and then was a delight at two levels last season.
The freakishly athletic Szczur will probably start 2012 in Double-A, but is already on the 40-man roster (as per an agreement in his contract) and could have an impact on the Cubs as early as 2013.
When the offseason started, I would have put Matt Garza and Sean Marshall on this list. A left-handed reliever who can get righties out consistently is extremely hard to come by and a guy with the makeup and talent of Garza is exactly what the Cubs need in their rotation.
But I've now come to realize they are the two best trade chips the Cubs have. Marshall already proved it, as he had a very nice return for a relief pitcher.
Could Garza be next? Toronto is looking for a starter and they have plenty of prospects to give up.
The sad part about this list is it includes just one guy who had an impact in 2011 (Castro) and only Castro may have a huge impact next season. Cashner is coming off a serious shoulder injury and could wind up as just a sixth-inning guy for most of the year while McNutt and Jackson need strong spring trainings to break camp with the big-league club.
Just shows how important this rebuilding process is for the Cubs.