Two weeks ago, it seemed Ian Happ was at the top of the list of Cubs potential trade bait.
Now, there are some circles of the fanbase that would rather see Javy Baez or Kyle Schwarber traded than Ian Happ.
Roughly two-and-a-half hours before Eddie Butler started for the Cubs in the series finale with the San Francisco Giants Thursday afternoon, the conversation with Joe Maddon turned to the neverending search for pitching and how young players can handle being a part of trade rumors.
"I think a lot of times when people are mentioned in a trade, sometimes it's perceived that they're not going well, people want to push them to the front of the line," Maddon said. "All of a sudden, [Baez is] going well, so I expect him to go to the back of the line relatively soon."
After a stretch where he went 1-for-18 from May 10-17, Baez entered play Thursday with eight hits in his last 13 at-bats, including two homers and eight RBI. He's raised his OPS 104 points in the process to .798.
Happ, meanwhile posted a 1.240 OPS in his first eight games in The Show, including seven extra-base hits (four doubles, two homers and a triple).
Schwarber's batting average hasn't climbed over .200 since the last day of April.
Of course, part of the discussion with all three is the positional versatility — Baez and Happ can play all over the field while Schwarber is a left fielder and rare catcher.
"Another part of the trade narrative is based on depth, obviously," Maddon said. "So if you have other pieces like that, then you promote somebody within that group. I think Javy's gonna be in that position for a bit regardless — no intent on our part.
"However, he's still going to be mentioned in those moments because of what I just said — he's gonna go good or bad. And when he's going great, you're never gonna trade him. But right now, he's playing really well. That was a good game he had [Wednesday]. He's in the .270s now [average], better at-bats, he's not chasing pitches, the defense is obviously showing up.
"I just think the nature of our team, the young guys, you're gonna hear that. If you're gonna attempt to get pitching, you're gonna hear the typical names mentioned. And just from our players' perspective, I just would hope they won't take it to heart too often.
"But if they hear it enough and they're asked about that question often enough, of course it's gonna leave a mark. But [Baez] is impactful. Listen, none of these guys that you like aren't even nearly as good as they're gonna be in a couple years. Just be patient."
The Cubs are always going to be searching for pitching as their farm system has had much more success producing young hitters than arms.
The Cubs are still looking for some consistency from the fifth starter spot this season and looking further down the road, both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are only under contract through 2017. As of right now, only Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks are penciled into the Cubs' 2018 rotation.
Of course, given the surplus of quality, young position players, the Cubs could deal from a position of strength to acquire impact, controllable pitching.
But it's hard to see them ever trading Baez or Schwarber — who are both in the midst of their first full season in the big leagues and will forever be entrenched in Cubs lore with their postseason heroics last fall.
Baez is also particularly important for his impact in the field, as an elite defender at three infield spots and the Cubs' only depth at the shortstop position after Addison Russell.
In Thursday's lineup, Maddon gave Russell a day off and inserted Baez at shortstop, a move that gives the Cubs manager peace of mind from a defensive standpoint — "It's a beautiful thing."
There's no way Happ will keep hitting like he has in his first two weeks in the majors, but his performance after only 91 minor-league games above Class-A ball could serve as a showcase for other teams looking at trade options from the Cubs system.
"I can't emphasize enough—- if you like our kids, just wait a little bit," Maddon said. "Continue to fertilize them, nurture them and they're gonna keep getting better."