Less than two weeks remain until the July 31 trade deadline, and this is where Theo Epstein will earn his money. The Cubs president could shape pennant races in both leagues, and infuse the system with the impact talent his front office is always talking about.
The first question is whether Ryan Dempster will make it to his next scheduled start Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. From there, seismic changes could hit this team.
Epstein said he has no idea just how many players could be in play.
We have to assess every situation, Epstein said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. If there are moves we can make that put us in a better situation going forward, well make em. But were not going to make moves just for the sake of making moves. They have to leave us in a better position for the future.
An industry source projected the Cubs could get two solid (maybe not spectacular) prospects for Dempster, who has a 1.86 ERA and has thrown 33 consecutive scoreless innings (with a trip to the disabled list for a sore lat muscle in between).
An opportunity with the Los Angeles Dodgers is said to appeal to Dempster, whos positioned to become a free agent at seasons end. He has no-trade rights which shouldnt prevent a deal and any contender already knows the hard competitive edge and leadership skills hed bring into a clubhouse.
The extra wild cards have widened the playoff field, leaving the Cubs as one of the few teams that have already sharped their focus for July 31.
Would-be contenders like the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers are stuck in the middle, still trying to figure out their strategy. The New York Yankees are the only team that really appears to be pulling away in their division, and they play in the brutal American League East.
Its always good to have the market dynamic on your side, more buyers than sellers, Epstein said. Its always nice to have leverage on your side. Well see. The trade markets still developing. As you get closer to the deadline, teams real desires and intensity of those wishes become clear.
Thats the picture one major-league official painted for how and when the Cubs might deal Matt Garza. An overly aggressive owner, a desperate general manager or a game-changing injury could force someone to meet the asking price. Theres no rush or obligation to trade Garza, who remains under club control through 2013.
Even with Dempster and Garza, the Cubs are facing a pitching deficit. It compelled them to take seven consecutive pitchers in the June draft after using the No. 6 overall pick on high school outfielder Albert Almora. Thirteen of their top 20 selections were pitchers.
In certain deals, I think it is (what were looking for), Epstein said. You can express a preference for pitching. But if youre dealing with a club that has better position-player prospects or you feel position players in a certain system are a safer bet or offer higher upside I dont think its smart to pigeonhole yourself to one situation.
As a whole not specifically regarding these potential deals that are upcoming we need to add a lot of pitching to the system. Its not enough to have like a handful or one or two. You need to have waves and waves of pitching coming through your system, and we dont have that. We hardly even have one wave coming. So we need to build a lot of pitching depth.